Living in the Northern part of the United States near the west shore of a Great Lake can be rather depressing this time of year. Those inland seas, as they have been called, affect our weather yielding a disproportionate number of cloudy days. Add to that the fact that we are on the west edge of the Eastern time zone, and sometimes it feels like somewhere around early December we descend into darkness until sometime close to May.
My sister’s family lives in Colorado; my brother’s in California. They rarely experience cloudy days. And in the darkness of January and February I often envy them. I don’t envy the weather, mind you. I love four distinct seasons where each moves relatively smoothly from one to the next. But I do envy their sunshine.
The past two days have been those rare but delightful days where the sky was blue and the temperature was spring-like. The first of this two-day run I s delighted. Ah…..sunshine! Yesterday I was nearly giddy. But as I anticipate the cold and clouds returning I couldn’t help remembering spending two weeks in the southwest some years ago.
We were camping, enjoying the vistas that an arid and mountainous climate offer. But sometime after the first week, I found myself getting up in the morning and wishing for clouds. The monotony of the piercingly hot sun, cloudless blue sky, dry dirt, and coniferous trees was beginning to wear on me. As I think back, in some ways the monotony of the dry, hot sun was as bad as the monotony of clouds.
I was reading about Julian of Norwich yesterday in a fascinating new book called Christological Anthropology by Marc Cortez, a theologian at Wheaton College. I have not read her myself but Cortez does a fabulous job outlining her ideas.
One thing that Julian apparently speculates about is the origin of sin. She wonders why God would allow his first creatures to sin and the pristine world to devolve into its current state of misery. She doesn’t really come to a firm answer.
But I wonder along with many others throughout history whether human free agents need to experience misery to fully appreciate glory. If God had not allowed the possibility for sin, could we really have understood the gift a relationship with God offers us?
It’s a little like living in a sunny climate, I think. If you never experience ongoing clouds and darkness, do you really appreciate the sun?