“Watch for it! Keep watching!”
A few simple words and I am eight-years-old again. And thirteen. And sixteen. And all the ages in between.
It is a go-to-the-snow day, but this time around I am the mother. I am the one pointing out the window, encouraging my boys to watch the red dirt as the foothills flash past, anticipating the first glimpse of snow.
I am thirty-nine years old. In just a few months, I will round the corner to forty. But today I feel eight. Joy bubbles up inside of me when I begin to see thin white patches of icy fluff blanket the shaded spaces beneath the pine trees.
We round a turn on the highway and I gasp. The heavy winter clouds of the week’s storms have moved on and left the mountainside glittering. Snow clings to the dark branches of the trees. A frosty haze settles among the branches and hovers above the feathery layers of white beneath them. It appears as thought the White Witch and the Good Witch joined forces to create a wintry haven in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
“Hey, little man. Close your book. Look out the window.”
“Huh?” He gazes half-heartedly out the window. “Oh, Mom! It is so beautiful.”
I know. Immaculate – untouched – untainted by human footprint. The mystical beauty touches something deep within us, and the mood in the car shifts instantly.
The smooth surface of newly-fallen snow beckons to us. We find a place to park safely, bundle up from head to toe, and anchor our feet into our borrowed snowshoes. At the start of the path, we see one or two other sets of footprints, but for now, this is our Eden, and adventure awaits.
We, my two boys and me, begin trekking along the nature trail. Full of spirit, the youngest ventures off to the side, where the snow is piled high in fluffy mounds. The older one dashes ahead, clamoring for the role of lead explorer. I form the caboose in our three-person snow-shoeing caravan so I can observe the child-like wonder of the boys as they weave among the trees. They leave a trail of messy footprints in their wake.
We trod onward, marvelling at the serene beauty of the snowy wood. A few other adventurers cross our paths, but we avoid them. This day is for me and my boys. I want to share my passion for discovering God’s presence within the magnificence of a snowfall.
As we forge a path away from – but still in sight of – the other visitors, the work is harder. What began as an energetic romp through a meadow becomes determination to break a more direct path. Their youthful ardor quickly turns to childish whines.
“How much farther?”
“Can’t we just turn around?’
“Almost there, boys. I promise. You wanted to reach the lake and have a snowball fight, remember? Wait. I’ll take the lead. If I go first, I can pack down the snow so it will be easier for you.”
The boys move to the side and let me pass. We venture on.
“Can’t we stop? Can’t we sit down and rest for a bit?”
I know what that will do; if we sit down, they won’t want to get back up.
“No. We have to keep going. Trust me. We are almost there – and you’re going to love it when you see the lake. Didn’t you say you wanted a handful of ‘sn-and’?” I throw in their made-up word for snow-covered sand, hoping it will motivate them to persevere a little longer. “And I see the lake! Right there!”
“Through the trees. Look carefully. You can see the blue peek through the branches.”
With that small glimpse of water, hope surges through them. They cover the last few paces with renewed strength.
I watch their feet break through the glistening surface, their footprints invasive blemishes in an otherwise pristine landscape.
The Spirit nudges me.
It was perfect, when He made it. Then man decided to create His own path and sent Eden into a spiral of sin. Our footprints are all over that. All of His plans for us are perfect, too. Then, in our childish exuberance, we set off running without waiting for him to form the path ahead of us. We know where we are headed and we know how to get there. So God becomes the caboose, watching us take the path of most resistance.
Until our souls begin to ache, gasping for relief from the strain and heartbreak we find when we discover we have lost His path completely. We shout at him, “I cannot do this! I cannot go any farther.”
And He gently takes the lead again. He doesn’t cover us with harsh words or an empty I-told-you-so. He simply waits for us to step aside and invite Him to be the leader and guide on our journey. He knows the way and the plan much better than we do. But, like my little boys, too often I start on His path with eager feet and forget to look for his trail markers. I veer off into knee-deep worry or fear or independence until my exhausted Spirit reminds me that I wasn’t made to run this race alone. I was made to follow the One who created the mountains and who sent the snow drifting down upon the trees. The One who fashioned a new snowfall on a meadow in the Sierras so I could remember the One who leads me.