I stood at the back window this morning staring at a vast sea of whiteness beyond the glass. It’s not possible to describe how much I love all this snow.
While staring and sighing and thanking God that He had the foresight to create something so spectacular, I had a memory of another time. I remembered how my sisters and I used to guard our backyard from fun-seeking friends. “Don’t step on the snow!” we’d order. We weren’t very old; I was probably eleven and my younger sisters eight and four. Our friends would look at us oddly. Snow is for trampling, I could all but hear their thoughts. What’s wrong with the three of you? When they’d persist, describing the snow angels we could make out there, or the snowmen we could build, the three of us would growl and snap. “No one takes one step in the backyard!” I don’t remember ever meeting for planning discussions or analyzing why this was so important to us. We just knew. We knew on a unified level. At least in that one area of the world—an area we could control with fenced-in protection—the snow must remain untouched, pristine, pure.
I never understood the origin of all that fervor until it dawned on me recently that this was our way of controlling at least one small something in our world. This was our way of staking a square bit of peace—where no chaos reigned, where no bumps showed, where nothing got trampled or messed or ruined.
Our lives back then were in constant flux. We never knew where we’d live next week, or how much food we’d find in the cupboards, or who might next trade their last name for the rights to our mother’s bedroom, or what craziness might next tip our world. Nothing made sense, nothing was predictable. But when the snows came, and created a landscape of pure, unsullied beauty—ours for the taking—we guarded it with a fierceness you don’t often find in the young.
I’m all grown up now, and I’ve learned that it’s only possible to keep your backyard untouched if you permit no people in your life. As the scriptures say, “Where no oxen are, the trough is clean.”
My trough is a mess. In keeping with my metaphor, you might say that my backyard is a mess. The door to our backyard is open, you see—wide open. I’m a pastor’s wife and a mother. And I belong to Jesus. My life is not my own; I’ve been bought with a price. So there’s no sense trying to keep the gate shut. I can’t guard it twenty-four hours a day; I don’t even have that right. People burst in. They sneak in. They crawl in. They claim favored parcels and far corners and unpack their baggage, and like it or not, the snow gets trampled. Once settled, the gloves go on and the snowballs start flying. Sometimes they’re aimed at fellow yard-dwellers; sometimes they’re aimed at me.
My backyard now is littered with footsteps, the bedraggled trails of those who have come seeking refuge and acceptance. Here and there, spots of purity still wait, untouched and undisturbed. All the rest is crisscrossed with the evidence of life and activity and chaos.
But oh, the angels we have made together.