The Upside of Blizzards

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I stayed home from work on Monday. I live along one of the busiest roads in the state, so normally I don’t have to worry about travel conditions. But when the snow plow doesn’t do the side roads, I’m just as stuck as the folks in the country. Thankfully, I have an understanding boss.

That time at home gave me some time to do things that I don’t often do. I blew the snow off the driveway a few times. I caught up on the weekend chores that didn’t get done. I assisted neighbors who tried to get out of our road only to find themselves stuck. And I thought.

I thought about how weather brings people together. In the cold face of the blizzard, neighbors become allies. The difference, I think, between man-made catastrophes like war and gun-related massacres and good old-fashioned bad weather like blizzards and hurricanes, is the opposition. Acts of God give people common ground in the effort to simply keep everyone alive. There is no room for argument over whether the blizzard is justified or whether we need greater snow regulation to keep snowballs out of the hands of criminals.

So why would a loving God make such inhuman conditions for people? Maybe He likes seeing us work together for a change. I don’t know.

It’s just a thought.

I am one to take offers literally.

I was a freshman in high school when my church got a new youth pastor. Pastor Alan Moody had me pegged as a quiet, shy, innocent boy when we first met, perhaps because I was a freshman and my older brother was a senior. It didn’t take long for him to realize his mistake.

Sometime in those first few weeks, he said to the youth group, “My door is always open. If you ever want to come by, feel free. Come over anytime. No exceptions.” Quite a statement.

Two years pass. We go on some mission trips, do some outreach things, and the youth group grows to love Pastor Alan.

During that year (my junior year, by which time I have my driver’s license), Pastor Alan arranged for four of us in the youth group (two guys, two gals) to take part in a weekend leadership seminar that was taking place at some Christian college a few hours away. We had signed all the necessary paperwork to be able to leave at the end of the school day in the church van in order to get down to the college in time.

But then the snowstorm hit.

Pastor Alan came to visit us during lunch to tell us that the seminar had been cancelled.

“That’s okay,” I said. “We’ll just come over to your house for the weekend. We’re already packed.”

It was true. Since we were planning on leaving from school, we all had packed bags sitting in our cars.

“Ha ha,” said Pastor Alan.

“You did say that we could come over anytime,” I said.

“Anytime,” he said, one eyebrow starting to lift.

“Great,” I said. “We’ll see you later.”

“Uh huh,” he said, eyebrows now knitted. “Later. Enjoy your weekend.”

That night, instead of leaving for the trip, the four of us attended the school’s varsity boys’ basketball game (three of us because we were in the jazz band that played at these events, the fourth to watch the game and the jazz band play). After the game, near 11:00pm, we left the school and drove over to Pastor Alan’s house and knocked on the door, arms full of luggage and convenience store snacks. His pregnant wife answered.

“Hi,” I said. “Pastor Alan said that your door is always open. So here we are.”

“Let me get Alan,” she said quietly, so as not to wake her four other kids.

Within about a minute, Pastor Alan came to the door.

“What are you doing here?”

“I said we were coming by.”

“The leadership thing was cancelled,” he said.

“Right,” I said. “Which is why we’re here instead.”

“…”

“Can we come in? It’s cold out here. You did say once that we could come over anytime.”

“Um,” he said. “Fine. But stay downstairs and try not to wake up the kids.”

We all went downstairs.

We played Nintendo games, ate junk food, and ended up waking at least one of the children. We stayed up to the wee hours and when we deemed it time for bed, the girls slept upstairs in the living room and the boys slept downstairs in the family room. I get the feeling that for the next week, Pastor Alan slept on the couch.

After my senior year, Pastor Alan took another job, becoming a camp director. The church got a new youth pastor. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in passing, Pastor Alan told the new youth pastor to avoid the phrase, “Come over anytime.”