Winter came in with a bang this year, didn’t it? Sure, we’d had a few teasers this fall — some snow here and there, some freezing nights — but suddenly this week it decided to release a little of its pent-up energy by plunging the temperatures to zero, snowing way more than we expected, and freezing over the lakes.
It takes some getting used to, looking out the window and seeing the water — the constantly moving, changing, squirrely water — be still. There is something supernatural about the first freeze. Miraculous that the raucous water can be immobile.
I am captivated by it every time I glance out the window. It’s as if the very nature of the water has changed. As if what’s out there is no longer good old H2O. As if the world itself has turned on its head.
We spent last weekend in Rapid City, SD. Our son is going to college out there and so, between mid-term exams and finals, we snuck in a couple of days together. While we were there we saw many small ponds and a few lakes that were frozen, so maybe that helped prepare me for our own lake’s frozen state. But while my mind was ready for it, my eyes are still astonished.
On Saturday we drove to Devils Tower National Monument, in Wyoming. None of us had been there and it is, truly, magnificent. I love the creativity of God! Devils Tower is an “igneous intrusion," formed by magma and revealed by erosion. A person could say, I suppose, that God had nothing to do with forming the tower, it just was exposed by nature over millennia. But God set up the codes which the natural world obeys, and so, though erosion brought the tower to light, it was God who said that it should be so.
One of the prime rules of visiting the monument is that silence should be maintained. Even the local airport has regulations about planes approaching so that even from the sky, the only noises should be natural ones. We walked around the entire tower — 1.3 miles — and we stopped, now and then, to just listen. Sometimes there was utter silence. Sometimes birds twittered. Sometimes the wind blew as only wind can through trees and rock and nothingness. That, too, was magnificent.
That stillness — that silence so profound that it fills your head — is what I think of when I see the unmoving lake outside my window. It is not nothing. It is not numb.
It is expectant.
“That day when evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat…A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’
They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’” Mark 4:35-41 NIV
Jesus, the creator of the universe, can tell the wind and the waves to be still, and the wind and the waves are compelled to obey. He speaks the language of the wind. He tells the earth to crumble and crumble it does, revealing a stunning landscape. He tells Lake Galilee and Lake Okabena to be still — even to freeze — and they have no choice but to comply.
I may not be the biggest fan of winter. But I am a super-fan of the acts of God.
Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is email@example.com.