Faith & Worship: You think it’s cold here?

Published 5:21 pm Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The weather report for Chicago says negative twenty degrees with a wind-chill of negative fifty-one. Quite frankly, that is way past my pain threshold. I grew up in Chicago, and I remember winter days that reached into the negative twenties. I remember the biting cold on all exposed flesh. I remember that no socks, boots, or mittens would keep my toes and fingers warm. I remember that I thought it was really cool if I could stand the cold for just ten or twenty minutes. I remember that my mother was exasperated with my brothers and I. There was no place for us to go, so we just stayed in the house and annoyed her. The cold was pure misery in the Chicago winter, because the wind howled, the sun disappeared for months at a time, and the pristine white snow quickly turned into ugly brown mounds on the side of the streets. This time of the year I would look at the calendar, and I would physically despair. Three more months of cold, overcast, and drab weather, what will sustain me in this cold wasteland?

I guess you could say that the Chicago winters made me hard and tough. Inured, you might say, to unpleasant conditions, but my wife says that I am a wimp. I have to agree with her. This past December our electricity and heat went out for four days. I was a complete wreck. My toes were cold, my muscles were stiff and sore, and I was short tempered and ill-mannered without the indoor temperature set exactly at seventy degrees, a hot shower, and a nice hot cup of tea in the morning. Any illusions of myself as being tough and inured to the elements due to my upbringing in Chicago were shattered. I whined and told my wife on numerous occasions that we needed to flee the death inducing cold in our house for a more comfortable lifesaving location in the Caribbean. She told me to put on long underwear and put another blanket on our bed. She told me that we were not going anywhere, and that I should think of this experience as a mild challenge by Jesus to pick up my cross and deal with it!

I told her that she was mistaken, for Jesus told his disciples, “Pick up your cross and follow me.” She told me that she knew exactly what Jesus said, and that I wasn’t at the point yet where I could follow Jesus. She said, “Jesus would be mildly amused if you just picked up the cross and stopped complaining. Once you did that, we could talk about following Jesus. Until then, just stop being a complainer and grumbler.” Perhaps she had a point. It’s hard to do much else than complain when you can only feel sorry for yourself. I am a world-class kvetch, and nothing brings home this point more than cold weather. I’d like to think that I can go wherever God calls me, but in reality there are just too many things to complain about to take Jesus seriously and follow him, especially if he’s going to Chicago!

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Father Robert Ard, The Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross