Shirin McArthur

prayerful pondering

The Stillness of Ice

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Winter does come to the Sonoran Desert. It freezes here, although not frequently. I’ve seen ice form on puddles in the early mornings, and if I need reminders of true cold, I can look across to the Catalina Mountains, which are high enough to gather snow while it rains here in the valley.

I’ve been reflecting further on the theme I started last week: on the need to foster emptiness, stillness, and silence in these winter days—especially as a way of recovering from a very full and busy Christmas season. Our culture—at least here in America—has effectively stolen Advent from us, replacing it instead with the chaotic busyness of holiday events, parties, lights, gifts, travel, family, and so on and so on…. We may try, but—especially for me last month—Advent stillness was hard to come by. So now, in this quieter, more reflective season, I am finding wisdom in my contemplation of ice.

img_3877Ice is literally reflective—which makes it a good choice for reflecting upon the season. Although it may not reflect its surroundings as clearly as water, ice is also not ruffled by wind. It stands solid, with a stillness that lasts as long as the colder weather holds. It can be moved by the larger forces of nature, or human intervention, but not by every gale of winter storm.

Ice can handle a lot more pressure than water. Think about the weight of an ice skater versus the bulk of a swimmer. Skaters might scrape up the surface of the ice, but the underlying layers remain still. Swimmers displace water, pushing it outward, disturbing the whole. Ice can endure much more because the gales of life slip along its surface and slide away.

Ice also protects. Deep bodies of water do not freeze completely, forming a barrier against the bitter winter cold and allowing the creatures who dwell in the depths to survive. In the same way, our seasons of stillness protect the parts of us that might not be able to withstand the gales which storm about us at some points in our lives.

Stillness also brings balance into our lives. If we spend all our time in frenetic activity, we can lose touch with our deep inner strength, our patient endurance, and our need to protect the more delicate parts of our soul’s habitat. When storms rage, we stand strong in our stillness and let the chaos fly by.

In what ways do you need to foster an appropriate icy stillness in this season of your life?

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