A few weeks ago, I pulled on my warmest winter clothes and pulled the sleds down from the rafters in the garage. I placed my toddler into the sled and pulled her behind me as we walked directly down the middle of the unplowed St. Louis roads. We were on our way to Benton Park.
Other sledders had arrived first, and as I plowed a path for my children to an unclaimed section of the hill, we passed the local duck family curled up and napping directly on the frozen pond. The sounds of city traffic, already minimal, were muffled by the blanket of snow. From the top of the hill, all I heard were shouts of joy and the swish of snowpants as the children ran back up. They went up and down again and again. They had endless energy.
After convincing a few of them to go down the hill with me, the children collectively decided I’m not good enough at sledding and rejected all further offers to accompany them. The toddler declared she’s a big girl and would attempt all future trips solo just like the other big kids. So I stood on the brow of the hill and watched with contentment, thinking about snow. And winter.
In his poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” Robert Frost writes, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep,/ But I have promises to keep,/ And miles to go before I sleep.” He’s out riding his horse when it begins snowing and pauses for a moment between the woods and frozen lake.
Frost has a dark, cold journey ahead. His mind focuses on the warm bed at the end. This desire is more than what it seems. It’s a metaphor for the journey we make from birth to death, a lifetime of pilgrimage through a world that’s alternately stunningly beautiful and a dangerous arena of ugly temptation. Through it all, we seek home.
We stand on a threshold. As much as we would like to linger and make this world our home, we cannot. We are shifted from moment to moment against our will and cannot crawl into a snowbank and pause. To do so would be to give up, to claim, “I have gone this far and this far enough.”
Life is meant to be contended for. We are meant to pry into the deepest, freshest meaning of things, and cannot sleepwalk down the path failing to appreciate the people we love, making the same mistakes over and over again, unable and unwilling to break crooked patterns and bad habits.
We have miles to go, so don’t pause too long on the dark winter path. Don’t focus on what has gone wrong, complaints and disappointments. Don’t sleepwalk, unmindful of the ways in which God is calling out to you. We see by a brighter light, and soon enough we will arrive at its source to kneel in adoration before our crucified and risen Lord.
Father Rennier is pastor of Epiphany of Our Lord Parish in St. Louis. A former Anglican priest, he was ordained in 2016 under a pastoral provision for the reception of Anglicans and Episcopalians into full communion with the Catholic Church. He and his wife, Amber, have six children.