Sitting here in the midst of ‘the blizzard of 2016’, certain things are impossible not to think about. Snow, for instance. Snow is a familiar climate phenomenon that remains pretty much unchanged from one generation to the next, unless, of course, you abandon that ridiculously impersonal weather app on your phone and do something sensible, like ask your grandpa about it.
Grandpa just might reward your shift to a human search engine, and will almost certainly yield fresh new insights into the unstable and unreliable nature of digitized weather history. He will help you understand that there is a direct correlation between the impact of any local snowstorm and the number of years removed from it. Somehow details missing from earlier reports about snowstorms become clearer with the passing years, and Grandpa can now begin to unveil the true nature of the frozen tsunamis he survived. In addition to the obvious failure of so-called ‘weather people’ to accurately measure something as simple as the snow’s depth, he will reveal other vital pieces of information they missed, like how far he had to trudge through blizzard conditions to get supplies that would help them avoid facing the difficult decisions that come with starvation and eventual cannibalism. The weather app will never help you prepare for challenges like that.
And speaking of snow, I recall an incident during our time in Alaska when I learned what a bad snowstorm can look like. The village we lived in was small, and only had about seven total miles of roadway, so they were pretty familiar, especially the little dirt and gravel road between my office and our house. I thought I could have driven it with my eyes closed if I had to. That turned out to be a bit presumptuous. A snowstorm driven by winds easily in excess of 60 mph descended without warning late one afternoon in early winter. Everything was covered in a matter of minutes and it was piling up at a rate I had never witnessed. By the time I decided to leave the office, it was a struggle to get to the car. Turning out onto the road to traverse the mile and a half or so between there and home put me directly into the wind, and suddenly everything familiar vanished. The road didn’t exist anymore. Houses, buildings, the lagoon on my left, and the mountains around me all disappeared into a sheet of total white. Having lost all bearings, I stopped the car. I was afraid to move, but afraid to stay there as well, unable to drive because I couldn’t see, and unable to get out because the wind was like a hurricane, and the slippery snow offered no traction to stand or walk. “So this is a ‘white-out’”, I thought. I learned in graphic terms how easily familiar routines can become impossible, and how quickly familiar scenes can become totally unrecognizable. It was a transformation like none I had ever seen. Not surprising that God used snow to illustrate an even more shocking and powerful transformation.
Oh, by the way, I did manage to get home—you were worried about me, weren’t you? The wind eventually began to shift direction a little every once in a while, giving a brief window to see some outlines of things and get my bearings. I’d move a few yards at a time at those points, and eventually made it home. I arrived with a fresh dose of gratitude, a new grasp of how much can change just by introducing one new element to the scene. I also saw one of my favorite verses in a whole new light. God said through the prophet, Isaiah,
“’Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow…’” (Isaiah 1:18a NKJV).
God wasn’t talking about snowstorms in that passage, but He did have that same kind of dramatic, radical transformation in mind—minus the fear of frozen death, of course.
We don’t generally envision our lives like God does in any context, but especially not as though our character had been tinted or stained in some way with a particular color. We just don’t tend to think like that. God, on the other hand, apparently does, and in this case, the color is red. Notice His reference to that color in describing the corrupt world system and its twisted evil practices during the last days. He calls it a “scarlet colored beast” (Rev. 17:3). The ‘woman’ pictured as riding on it, and who represents an equally corrupt religious system, is described as being clothed in a garment of purple and scarlet. It is no coincidence that in God’s metaphorical dictionary, blood represents life (Lev. 17:11), and that red is its universal color. Plans for the Old Testament worship centers and their associated sacred items included various materials that God required to be dyed red. It is a color whose symbolic scope applies to both life and death, and its use in worship was meant to illustrate the realities of both. Blood flows in almost every living creature, certainly in every human being. It is a life-giving substance on the inside of the body, but a picture of death when it is seen spilling out and leaving its color on everything it touches. From God’s perspective, sin stains our lives with an aura of death, like blood poured out, but He calls us to “reason with Him” (Isa. 1:18), and invites us to abandon a life of sin in exchange for an eternally transforming encounter with Him. In our hopelessness to change what we are or hide what we’ve done, He offers mercy and grace, and a redemption so complete that it totally wipes out every stain that sin left on our lives. The new life He offers can so radically change the familiar scenery of our failures and regrets that our old paths become unrecognizable, and nothing looks the same.
Before Alaska, ‘white-out’ meant no more to me than a correction fluid to use when I screwed up a word. Then it morphed into a scary, blinding snowstorm, and finally into the most powerfully compelling picture I had ever seen of God covering every old thing with a bright, new, untainted purity.
© 2016 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
To follow this blog for more ‘Right Side Up Thinking ~ In an Upside Down World’, sign up just below the ‘Search box’ in the upper right sidebar for regular email notifications of new posts.