Here in Virginia, snow is a rare treat, or at least, a treat for me. I grew up in Western New York with snow as the standard issue landscape for at least five months of the year. Now that I have moved south, snow is infrequent and short-lived. This week, though, it is cold enough that the winter storm brought 8 inches of powdery whiteness to our city, and it looks like it’s going to be here to stay for a while.
I took advantage of the snow day to get caught up on some work, but decided this afternoon that a snow walk was a necessity. I was so glad I made that decision. The snow was beautiful in the late afternoon sunlight, and I realized that I had forgotten just how much ordinary sights can change with the simple beauty of snow. My daughter decided to emerge from her Netflix hibernation and join me.
I paused to take this photo in the most mundane of locations: behind an oil change shop at the end of my street. I have walked by the same location a hundred times, maybe a thousand. But today, it was vibrant. Every ray of the sun found its way through the slats of the fence, brightening a stream of sparking light on untouched snow.
Same place, new light.
I kept that thought in my mind as I walked. I noticed the various greens of trees, the height of what were once tiny pines planted on Arbor Day that now shot up beyond my ability to see the top branches. I noticed the slate gray of my morning dove perched on a power line. She stood out against the snowy white background and let out a characteristic coo as I passed. The branches of old trees touched each other, creating a cathedral canopy over the street. I also noticed that my daughter’s snowy footsteps steps were virtually indistinguishable from my own in size, and stride.
These are the makings of an ordinary day, made extraordinary. As I was thinking this, my daughter asked me a question I had been hoping to hear from her for a long time:
Mom, what happened that made you decide you wanted to take this ‘journey’ that you keep talking about, you know, the whole “being a priest” thing?
I have been answering variations on that question for officials in the Church and in my own professional circles for months. But, this was the question I most wanted, from the person I most wanted it from, in her own honest pre-teen words.
As much as I craved the question, I hadn’t planned out what my answer to her would be.
The sunlight glistened on the snow, and I spoke the only thing I could: truth. “Do you remember that really terrible tragedy, two Decembers ago, when there was a school shooting?”
“When that happened, of course I felt incredibly sad, just like everyone else. But, I felt something different, too. I didn’t feel like a social worker. I didn’t feel like a teacher, or a professor, or a writer. I felt like a priest. I knew right then that was how I was meant to help people who were hurting. And, I have felt that way ever since.”
It occurred to me in that moment that it really was that simple. All the complexity, and questions, and discernment and formation: all valuable, all important. But I remember that moment when the light changed and I saw myself in it. I remembered that moment vividly, even as I stood there on our snowy street.
I saw myself in new light.
New light changes us. It seeks out the cracks of our brokenness and illuminates hidden places. New light permeates us, and transforms us. Once we are transformed, we have only one choice: we learn to live into that most sacred space of being who we know ourselves to be.
We kept walking; either the answer was enough, or enough for now. The journey is learning to live in the new light of now.
I hold that thought with me as I move into the sacred space of this season we call Lent.
During Lent, I will be posting primarily on the virtual faith formation blog that I write for my faith community: Sacred Space at St. Thomas. Please feel free to follow that blog on WordPress or by email if you would like to receive daily Lenten reflections and practices. Each Sunday in Lent, I will write an entry here on my personal blog, small points of light, reflecting on the weekly theme.