I grew up in California, very used to gentle weather. One year, we had a series of storms, and I’d seen heavy rain and lightning so few times in my young life that I hid under the couch cushions because it was all so overwhelming. When I got older and went to college, I moved to Chicago and learned that weather is a whole dang thing. Still, my school was connected by underground tunnels and I didn’t have to shovel anything, so I didn’t know that the true winter experience was on its way.
For graduate school, I moved to the place I now reside, just north of Boston, Massachusetts. I quickly learned about what great cardio it was to shovel snow, and if you want to leave at noon, you’d better walk out the door at 11:30 to start digging. At first, it was a novelty, and I do have to confess I love shoveling. But that’s mostly because my porch is small and my parking place is for just one car.
It’s been a fairly mild winter, but last week we got our first storm that dropped just over a foot of snow. It doesn’t sound like a ton, but when there’s a foot of snow everywhere, it can add up quickly. A post went out on my church Facebook page asking for help shoveling. This wasn’t just a porch or a parking spot. This covered doorways and sidewalks and the places the plows had missed.
Two volunteers took snowblowers and started bigger projects, but anything with stairs or narrow spaces needed the good, old-fashioned shovel. Myself and another friend moved from place to place, shoveling heavy loads anywhere we could put it as it continued to come down on us.
It was fun for a while, but then I started thinking: I wanted to stop. I wanted to be done. I wanted to hide around a corner and drink hot chocolate. But there weren’t many of us, and it was getting dark. My heart wanted to make excuses and talk my way out of putting my hand to the work we needed to get done. And then I recalled the people who would be there in another day or two trying to go to church.
They needed access to the building. If you leave snow, it starts to melt, and then cold temperatures turn it to ice. So after we shoveled, we put down a layer of salt to prevent it from being too dangerous. It brings a new understanding to the phrase, “You are the salt of the earth.” Without the salt, we’re all going to end up a meme of someone sliding down the sidewalk with a caption, like “Me tryin’ to get thru 2022.”
I have a complicated relationship with my church. I’ve hurt others, and they’ve hurt me. I’ve been misunderstood and cried over disagreements, but we always come back and talk it out and do what we can to live at peace with one another. We are human beings looking for the grace of God in the face of one another, and the only way we’re going to work things out is to work together.
So I shoveled. We shoveled. To clear a path and to love those who probably wouldn’t even notice our work if we did it well because the sidewalks would look fine. And that’s what we as the local church are called to do. We keep showing up in our messiness. We keep serving and celebrating. We keep ironing out the wrinkles. We clear the way and make room for one another to come home. After all, at the end of the day, we belong to Christ — and each other.Leave a Comment