Blizzards, Winter, and The Ice Age

Several years ago, around the beginning of the COVID pandemic, I recall reading an article that used a metaphor of a blizzard, Winter, and ice age. I recall the article talking about different types of responding and planning that were needed for each of the three.

  • The blizzard is an acute emergent moment that requires urgent attention and evasive maneuvering.
  • The Winter is a season that comes with predictable regularity. It requires a specific set of preparation and coping response. And like every season, it comes and passes.
  • The Ice Age is a persistent state of Winter that lasts and lasts, overshadowing all other seasons for an indeterminate length of time.

In a recent group meeting we read an article that brought this metaphor back to mind. I found myself connecting it to my experience of betrayal. The string of d-days over several months was like one blizzard after another. Each shocking discovery came without warning. Each was acute, painful, and life-altering. Visibility was hard to come by back then and I needed a specific set of new coping responses… and I needed to learn them quickly. I am grateful to God for putting key people in my way at just the right time to listen wisely, share their experience, and guide me to the resources I needed. I am grateful for the new healthy coping skills and the practice that helped me become proficient with them.

The blizzard period spanned several months and somewhere in the middle I came to the realization that God intended to renovate my soul and He would be using the cold and tumult to do it. I remember verbally acknowledging it saying, “OK God. Have your way. Let’s go deep. I trust you. Keep my heart soft toward you and my ears tuned to hear your voice.” I didn't realize it at the time, but this signaled a key turning point for me. Looking back there was something powerful about adopting a teachable cooperative posture toward God's will during this time. And I realize that it would have been nearly impossible to do that if I had not already trusted in God's sovereignty, goodness, and utter faithfulness. I remember thinking, "God is good, even when my circumstances don't feel good." I am grateful that God had prepared me with this foundation of faith before the cutting cold of the blizzards began to bite. What a valuable gift that has been.

Winter followed predictably after the blizzards. It started with many dark days and while it seemed like most of the Winter was overcast, sunny days began to pepper in among the dark ones. The skills and tools I acquired in the blizzards became the tools of the trade for coping with Winter. Sometimes it felt like training season. Other times it felt like pure drudgery. I often asked God to take it all away, but he didn't. I learned awareness and the value of reality. I learned to mourn and to accept. I learned to surrender and to admit. I learned to ground and process emotions. Some tools I used daily and other more specialized tools were better suited for the darker days.

I never imagined I would go through something like this. There is a sense of having lost innocence. There is a certain wariness about history repeating. I walk with a bit of a limp now, a constant reminder of how the life altering cold of the blizzards and Winter have changed me. And yet, here I am. I am still standing. I am still alive. I have scars, painful memories, and new triggers… and I have new abilities, new support systems, and new helping relationships.

These days it’s feeling like early Spring. I used to have cold months. Now I have cold hours and sometimes cold days. It still snows from time to time. While I didn't have control of the the blizzards and Winter and couldn’t avoid them, I discovered that I could control how I responded to them. I wasn't in control, and I wasn't helpless either. I’m starting to think that going through the ice age might be optional. Sure, Winter will come and go, but maybe I don’t have to live in perpetual Winter. Maybe I can grow to live in a warmer climate. Maybe I’ll enjoy the Spring flowers again. Maybe…

God, grant me hope for the Spring when Winter feels like it will last forever. And when the Summer comes, remind me of your faithfulness in the cold and make the warmth of the Sun that much sweeter to me. If blizzards and a winter should come again, please grant me the grace to navigate them with integrity and a cooperative growth mindset.

-Steve M


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