When winter would come and the snow would fall, it often seemed as though the whole world paused. Even in Canisteo, where snow was expected, occasionally the snow could still manage to halt the business of the little town. On such occasions, Darleen and I would venture out and about. Unlike rain which is accompanied by its “pitter-pats,” snow is escorted in with silence. There really is something so very enchanting about watching the snow fall against the street lights; but to me, silence made the experience seem holy.
As we would walk down the middle of the street, knowing that no cars would be of danger, we would sometimes silently watch in child wonderment as the big flakes would hit the ground. Other times, however, we would break the silence with a loud and joyful song. Often, we would lie down in the middle of the street- as if to defy the street’s usual hazard. Then we would move our arms and legs in and out, creating our very own snow angels. It’s funny how we could make such childhood play feel like a sacred moment with God, but that is exactly how I remember those cold, wintry evenings in Canisteo. Once the cold would hit us, we would then leave our little footprints as a sure sign that two little girls had headed for home. By morning, though, no one would even know that our footprints or angels had ever existed.
David understood the wonderment of snow. In Psalm 51:7, he recognizes snow’s ability to cover the filth or marks below the surface, begging God to cover his sin: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” God’s forgiveness covers our sin just as the freshly-fallen snow covered our angels in the street.
No winter has passed since without my thinking of those hallowed winter evenings. Those thoughts are often accompanied by the memories of Daddy’s prediction, “No school tomorrow!” Darleen and I would stand on the landing of the stairs in our two-story house with the lights off, watching the snow peacefully fall. To this day, nighttime snow leaves me sitting in the dark, watching the snow fall by the streetlight. Daddy was pretty nearly always right; there would be no school. As exciting as that was, we knew that our task for the next day would be to shovel the driveway.
Our driveway was not just any driveway; it was more like an alley, which allowed parking access to both our neighbors and ourselves. I realize that everything seems bigger to children, but I still think that twelve to fifteen cars could have easily rested in that space. So, shoveling was no small task. I remember mornings where the snow, more than a foot deep, would be waiting for us. We’d then do our best to clear the driveway. Toward the end of the winter, the banks would be well over our heads, making it nearly impossible to throw the fresh snow on the pile. As we’d dig down to the dirt below, our clean and pure snow would no longer seem so peaceful; it more likely resembled muddy slush. The view was no longer pure and tranquil, but dirty and disturbed.
At the risk of over-spiritualizing this grueling task, may I suggest that we likewise often attempt to remove God’s forgiveness? God covers our sin, but we still dig down deep, dredging up the dirt below. Somehow we are unable to sit contentedly in the midst of God’s grace because we know the muck that lies beneath. We wallow in it, until God’s forgiveness seems muddied by the guilt we manage to exhume. Sadly, as we dig down to our sin, we are diminishing the beauty of God’s freshly-fallen grace. He has given us a gift; how dare we disturb the beauty of it!