One of the things I just adore about religion is that it has a way of breaking through into mundane, daily life in ways that are unpredictable and inexplicable. These transcendent-to-temporal border-crossings often take the form of unexpected moments of awe and wonder. Just hearing those moments described, interpreted, and grappled with is wonder-full and awe-full in itself. Actually, it’s among the best ways I’ve found to practice vicariously – to see religion embodied so strongly in a person through moments and experiences that, for them, can be completely transformative. How can we make sense of this? Psychological explanations, while sometimes informative, are not particularly interesting and don’t seem to get to the guts of the experience. For an outsider, the origins of such moments seem rather irrelevant in comparison to the personal meaning ascribed to them, and the changes in behavior and belief that can result.
I like to look out for those moments in my own life. I’ve never had an ecstatic divine experience, but, still, sometimes my breath is taken away and it makes my morning. Today’s example can be easily explained by climate science. But I’ll share it anyway.
I came out to Nantucket yesterday to spend some time with my dad while I keep up the job search and other life-figurings. The last 6 weeks have been stressful – in that time span I’ve been in 2 countries, 6 states, driven 3,000 miles, attended a funeral, packed and unpacked my suitcase countless times, and have had an existential crisis just about every morning between 1:00 and 5:00am (it’s like clockwork I tell you). In the meantime I’m applying for jobs like mad and putting everything I have into finding where my place is and what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s been exhausting. There have been a lot of super great things in those 6 weeks too but I’ve been pretty anxious and overwhelmed about what’s coming next in my life. Growing pains.
And then, you know what, it snowed.
I knew it was supposed to snow last night, but the skeptical, winter-starved Oklahoman kid in me still expects “snow” to either be a slushy mess or a raging ice storm – basically, a disappointment. When I was little, just about every time an overnight snow was predicted, I’d go to bed with the ground still dry and have the following dream: I wake up in the morning, sooo excited for the winter wonderland I’m about to take a flying leap into! I jump out of bed, hesitate a moment before looking out the window, pull the curtain back and…not a snowflake in sight. I’d wake up from these dreams grumpy and convinced that the weather gods had once again failed me. Sometimes it had actually snowed, sometimes not. Ask any child of Oklahoma…this is probably a common syndrome.
I still have this dream and had it again last night (keep in mind I’m now 27). I dreamed that I wriggled out from beneath my warm covers in jittery anticipation, opened the door, and everything looked exactly the same as it had the day before. The only snow on the ground was in dirty, frozen patches. My inner Grinch clenched her fists and gnashed her teeth.
When I actually woke up this morning and looked outside, however, it had not only snowed, it had SNOWED. Even better, it was still snowing. Light, fluffy, toss-in-the-air-able snow. At least 6 inches (!) I felt a joy and excitement well up in me that melted my worries and fears and stress straight away. I spent a cozy morning with my dad, sipping tea, each of us wrapped up in blankets, reading our current page-turners, watching the snow accumulate out the window. I felt refreshed, peaceful, content, and confident that things were going to work out. I found a store of energy and inspiration and actually ended up having a really productive day.
Now I’m not saying that this was divine intervention. Or that all of my problems have henceforth been solved. I don’t see it that way and I imagine most of you don’t either. In fact, I mostly see it as completely silly. But I also see it as a good example of the fact that, when you’ve exhausted the rational part of your brain, rhymed and reasoned, taken advice, conducted research, crossed all of your T’s and dotted your I’s and things still haven’t been set straight or haven’t quite gotten there…sometimes it just needs to snow to remind you that – hey, you’re doing great, kid. Keep truckin.
Who would’ve thunk it?