February Letter

Dear Friends in Christ,
February is one of my least favorite months. I’ll just get that out there. In the places I’ve lived, February is the grayest, wettest, coldest, most dreary month of the year. If you’re a sports fan, there isn’t much to cheer about—after the Super Bowl at the beginning of the month there is a seemingly endless gap before baseball’s spring training games, and March Madness is, well, not until March. February is like the time between the crucifixion and the resurrection; a dreary time of being in-between where the past (winter) is not yet gone and the future (spring) is yet still beyond the horizon. Where can we find hope in such a depressing month?

I think back to a past winter. I’m not sure if it was in February, but it sure felt quite February-like. I was in a particularly February kind of mood, feeling down and as if God was far away. While walking the dog I felt drawn to the pond in our park. It had frozen over and there was a fresh layer of snow covering it, beckoning me to write my prayer on the blank canvas before me. I trudged out onto the snow and ice and shuffled out my message to God in big bold letters: H o p e. There, I had done it—one part affirmation of faith, and one part direct challenge to God. Hope: God, I believe it ... now show me it’s really there!

As the days went on, the weather was quite February. The temps warmed up, though only enough to melt the snow.
The rains came. H o p e was beginning to fade. I could still make out the traces of my message on the ice, though it was increasingly harder to pick out. What was once a bold declaration (or plea) in the snow was now a faint trace of slush in a pool of water that had collected on the icy pond. So much for hope, I thought.

Then an image came to me of Jesus walking on the water (like in Matthew 14:22-33). That passage is full of deep symbolism, not the least of which is God’s power to tame the seas (see also Matthew 8:23-27). In biblical times the sea was symbolic of chaos; people were terrified of the seas and the potential for bad storms as the ones the fisher-disciples often experienced on the Sea of Galilee. When Jesus walks on the waters or stills the waves, it evokes the image of the Spirit of God in Genesis 1 hovering over the waters (of chaos) and calling forth light and life from a formless void and a darkened deep. As God brought order to the watery chaos in the beginning, Jesus affirms God’s continued mastery over the forces chaos, destruction, and despair. As he walked on the water, Jesus was writing H O P E for all to see, and after his resurrection that message was sealed over the chaos forevermore.

Eventually, the forces of February erased the message I had so defiant-ly stomped out on the pond. The ice soon melted and with the frozen can-vas gone there was no way for me to restate my prayer. But by this time I had been reminded that the hope I was seeking was written on my heart by the One who tamed the seas. Sometime hope is hard to find, and not just in February. Truth is Febru-arys can come upon us when we least expect it. When that happens, remember that Jesus has written hope across all the stormy chaos life can through at us. It’s there whether we can see it or not.

matt sig