Ah, December. Autumn and winter have always been my favorite times of the year because it’s when nature challenges us the most. Winters in Tennessee are often unpredictable; there’s really no set pattern that we can expect one year to the next. Sometimes, it’s a perpetual spring. Sometimes we wonder if we’re in Wisconsin instead of Tennessee. No matter what, we’re forced to roll with the flow.
One winter in particular stands out in my memory. It was the winter of 1977, which is burned in my mind as one of the greatest ever in my life. I was in the first grade, five and a half years old. My hair was nearly white, and my frame could barely fill the tiny seventies-tastic plaid and striped clothes that my mother bought for me.
My hearing aid was among the first generations of hearing technology. I’ll never forget that silly hearing aid. It was a cigarette box-shaped device with a cord that went into an earpiece. If a time-traveler didn’t know any better, he or she might have even thought it was an early version of the iPod. In order to talk on the phone, I had to put the earpiece over the device on my chest and talk into the mouth piece as a person might talk into a microphone. But it was normal to me.
Faith was also a given in my life. It always has been. In a cold afternoon in early January of 1977, we had just finished our Christmas holiday. My mother was looking forward to getting the two boys out of the house so she could get some rest and really bond with my newly-born sister who was less than two weeks old. My older brother Andy and I had gone through all of the Legos and other toys, and were already fighting over them. To say my parents were ready to get us out of the house is a bit of an understatement.
Then it happened. I uttered those fateful words. I looked out that big picture window in our kitchen and looked at the gray sky outside and said softly, “Lord, make it snow.”
My parents have forever banned me from uttering those words ever again. This is what we in Clarksville called the Blizzard of ’77. There was so much snow that Andy and I didn’t have a bored moment. We tunneled in it, we built snow forts, we built snowmen, made snow angels, snow this, and snow that. When we exhausted ourselves, we huddled around the new wood stove that Dad had installed in the basement, and my mom made a special recipe of hot chocolate. It was pure heaven.
Well, at least it was for us. We learned a few things during that time, though. One day, my brother and I decided that we would build a couple of snow forts. We dug and packed that snow as tight as we could. Then, we made as many snowballs as our little hands could handle. We had one particular victim in mind: Dad. Oh, yes. Daddy would get the full onslaught of every snowball we could throw!
He pulled into the driveway in that old brown Dodge Dart, and stepped out of the car. My Andy yelled, “NOW!” And then the shock and awe began. Or was it giggle and toss? Whatever. Same difference.
Dad, you see, is a pretty big guy. We didn’t realize it, but he has pretty big hands, too. And as luck would have it, big hands make big snowballs, really big snowballs. Our little pellets started to run low. Dad reached down. With one big scoop, he packed a snowball that we could have sworn was as big as each of our heads.
All we saw after that was pure white. Alas, our plans were foiled. We lost. But we all got some hot chocolate.
Oh, to have the faith of a child again. When I looked into the sky and uttered those now-forbidden words, I simply knew that God would hear and answer. As I grew up, I became a little more frustrated with life, but my faith remains. That pocket hearing aid has shrunk into a device that’s no larger than a marble that fits completely in my ear.
Technology has changed. That picture window is no longer there, and the house is occupied by another family. But faith remains. Now, I know better than to pray for a foot of snow since it would shut down the entire state. There are, however, plenty of other things I can pray for.
I won’t list those things. For most of us, the desires of our hearts are as private as they are meaningful. So what’s left? Scripture says that three things will prevail over all time: faith, hope, and love. The greatest of them is love.
So that’s my prayer. No matter what we endure, no matter our struggle, no matter our pain, my prayer is that we’ll begin to look for that faith of our youth. So often, we’re so jaded with life that we forget what it’s like to just know without a doubt that God is there and that he loves us. We’ve forgotten that wide-eyed innocence that made the whole world a wonder.
What would happen if we recaptured some of that faith again? We could dismiss it if we wanted to, but I suspect that there’s a platinum-blonde haired child in all of us that’s ready to pray for the impossible.
“Lord, grant us equality.”