I have lived in Tyler for 26 years, and in Texas my whole life. I have never seen anything like this. I live here, enduring 110-degree summers and car interiors that feel like ovens, so that I don’t have to. I’m sure you feel the same way. I have had my Yankee friends who moved to Tyler tell me they did so in order to “never be cold again.” I’m so very sorry, my transplanted Northerners. A distorted, fallen creation has played a terrible trick on you, tracking you down from the frozen tundra you’d thought a distant, past memory.
Yesterday, as I was using one of the five snow shovels in the state of Texas (I borrowed it from a friend who moved here from Ohio- I’m sure he has to be feeling vindicated for the 15 years it’s gathered dust in his garage) to shovel off my driveway, I was thinking that apocalyptic snowfall and Siberian temperatures are really just the cherry on the top of the past 12 months. School closures, three months of virtual learning, global pandemic and struggling to keep school open, negotiating through racial and political unrest on the national level, culminating with an historic Arctic snow storm. In Texas. If I told you last February it was coming, you would look at me like I was either an insane prophet or testing out one of those ‘90s disaster movie scripts on you, wouldn’t you? And yet, here we are…
As we sit here now, half of you have no power, the other half are without water (I’ve now made the happy discovery that if you melt snow on your stove and pour it in your toilet tank, you can flush your toilets even without running water!). Some of you won’t read this blog, not because it’s not interesting or too long, but because you don’t have Internet access. We developed all these great plans to pull off virtual learning come what may by what we’ve learned last spring, only to be stymied by good old-fashioned 19th century electricity.
But, for all the struggles this past year has wrought, for all we’ve lost, for all we have learned and are now learning we can do without, the one absolutely vital thing we need, that without which we cannot live, is love. And, love has been on display this week.
The Beatles said all you need is love, and although I’d also like to have football, my truck, and running water, John and Paul were onto something. Love is the most powerful force in the universe. Love transcends space and time. It’s is stronger than death; in fact, love conquered death. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, says, “(Love’s) flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.” (Song of Solomon 8). Meaning keeps us alive, but love gives meaning its breath.
I know there’s been a lot of writing and discussion about how disjointed, disaggregated, and disunified we’ve become as a people and as a nation. I’ve written about it, too, and we’ve got some real healing to do. But, when we heal, it’s love that will do the healing. It always has. Disunity grabs headlines, but what grabs our hearts, our imaginations, and our memories is love. When we look back on this tempestuous season in our lives, we’ll remember the acts of love.
We’ve all seen our people at Grace love well this past year, and we’ve talked about it here. Teachers working all sorts of extra hours to create lessons for virtual learning, hours over and above what we can ever pay them, so that kids can get what they need. Doctor friends giving their time and energy not just to heal others, but to advise us on the best and most effective path in keeping school open. Parents going through their neighborhoods, helping out people they never knew before, leaving food and supplies. While hospital visitations aren’t possible in this COVID-ridden age, our families engage in prayer chains, face-timing, and food delivery, ensuring families feel loved and cared for. And, we’ve grieved and lamented together, which is, in itself, a compassionate act of love.
Yet, even as I write this blog, in the midst of the storm (literally), school families are finding new ways to love: currently hosting others in their homes; leaving their own houses with no power or water to work in churches that have opened warming shelters to people who don’t have homes; driving around and pulling people out of the snow (as I drove around today, helping and being helped out of the snow, it literally brought tears to my eyes to see black helping white, old helping young, poor helping rich, and vice versa, because love knows no boundaries); helping each other clean up when their pipes burst; traveling house to house to check on elderly folks; delivering water and cots and food and supplies; calling and checking on and praying with friends. I saw our people do all these things this week, not to check a box or satisfy an obligation, but because they serve a God who is love and they are passionate to bear His image well, loving others out of gratitude for the love they’ve been given, love that began in a crowded stable and was finished on a cross and sealed in an empty tomb. That’s earth-moving love, love that is salt and light and hope, manifested in small ways that transform lives.
It’s ironic, or maybe as God intended it, that as we enter this Lenten season, we’ve been deprived of a few things we can never really hold onto, lives once again put on pause, perhaps in order to, once again, take a few days to ponder the Father’s love for us: a love we can never lose, and that meets all our need. That’s the real secret of love: it’s not a scarce commodity, but an abundant one. The more you give away, the more you have, and the richer you become. Let’s ask God to help us give some away today, because the opportunities are plentiful.
Jay Ferguson, Ph.D., Head of School at Grace Community School, writes regularly on his blog, JaysBlog.org.