Tonight I went for a walk in the snow. It was a spontaneous thing. Sometime between when I stood on my roof putting up Christmas lights and when I tucked our boys in bed, a snowstorm had crept in as quiet as… well, as quiet as new falling snow. I only noticed when I peeked out the window after kissing the last boy goodnight.
I had a lot to do. But that snow beckoned me to it. Falling snow is beautiful, yes. But I tonight I felt drawn to its silence. Falling snow is about as close to the sound of nothing as you can get, muting the sound of cars or barking dogs or just about anything else trying to be heard. Before kids, my wife and I used to go on long walks in the snow to bask in this quiet. We walked until our feet were frozen. I learned of this magic then. There is a peace to a city blanketed in snow.
I needed that nothingness. I needed peace and quiet. It's not that my day had been all that loud. Sure three boys can be loud but I’m often the instigator and always an equal rabble-rouser. No, I needed the silence because my heart needed a place that was empty, so I could think and feel and listen to this discontent that had been tapping on my shoulder all day.
’Tis the season to be busy and full. ’Tis season when it’s hard to leave anything empty. Try keeping an empty calendar or some margin in your budget or room in your stomach. We can fill ourselves with so much in this season.
But if you’ve got a beating heart, you probably feel empty too. It may come as loneliness or restlessness, discouragement or discontent. It may be the empty seat at the table because of a person who is no longer with us. Or the job we didn’t get this year or the one we have that is miserable. It might be the pain we remember every year at this time.
Something about all this fullness provokes those empty places. When we are alive to joy, we will always be more alive to sorrow too. And you can only live so long with your outer world different than your inner world. At some point, you have to pay attention there.
That moment came for me while putting up Christmas lights. Twenty feet up on that roof, my heart had enough. The weekend had been packed with a flurry of holiday activities and I liked it all. But I knew I had been pushing away that discontent all day. And that part of my heart needed to talk.
And I so spent a glorious hour with only the sound of snowflakes hitting my coat like confetti. I prayed a little yes. But most of all, I listened and found some words for my pain, for my desires. And I felt more whole because of it all.
Holidays means literally Holy Days. And maybe you think right away, “Oh, like Christmas and Hanukkah and those religious parts.” And you’d be right about that. But the word holy means simply whole and set apart. These days are meant to be a different kind of time, sacred time, time set apart for our wholeness.
Think of it this way: To really get caught up this season is to set apart time for your wholeness. And if you’re going to do that, you’ve got to listen to your whole heart. You’ve got to befriend that discontent or longing or pain. It's there to lead you deeper into your heart.
May these holy days give you hollow places - room to be with your whole heart, to remember what you really want and what you really love.