A few weeks ago (Dec. 4, 2010, to be exact) I heard something on NPR's Prairie Home Companion that caught my attention. Confession: usually I hate this program. I usually find Garrison Keilor speaking to someone-certainly not me-but someone who must be Lutheran, from a small town and at least 40 years older than me. But on that day's segment of "The News from Lake Wobegon" (which you can still download as a free podcast) Garrison talks about how he wished the recent snowstorm would have caused the town to shutdown and how happy it makes people to cancel all those unnecessary items off their to-do lists and just enjoy the day for once.
The part that got me interested was when he started by saying that the town was in the mentality of "a northern dogged-ness, a fear of being considered weaklings...
when the fact is that most events that are scheduled would bring more pleasure if they were canceled." He goes on to say that people feel obligated to do things and put on a façade of happiness because they think that's what you are supposed to do. He's talking about something that people often think is a part of church-niceness and self-reliance-and turning them on their heads. He's talking about that sometimes God's weather is a way of getting us out of our ideas that being a Christian means always doing self-less things and feel busy-all with a smile on our face.
But that part of us that braves snowstorms and says "yes" to every volunteer request (or Facebook friending) isn't necessarily Christian-as Garrison names it, sometimes it's just self-indulgent. We give ourselves the illusion that the things we fill our lives with are so important that they could never be stopped-but really that's just false. In a happy response to this Prairie Home Companion news, I had a wonderful encounter with a congregant recently where she apologized sincerely for not being able to volunteer for a church activity and felt relieved when assured her that her saying "no" to something was a beautiful ministry that we all need to learn from. We need to cancel something every now and again, to say no, to take a little time with ourselves and our families in order to remember that we're only human and that the world will keep on spinning, no matter what we tell ourselves.
So, I hope this winter (although it isn't looking like it in the forecast) will bring you many opportunities to be snowed in and unable to do something mundane and seemingly vital-and that if it doesn't happen, I hope you make those situation happen.