The snow crunched as my moccasins covered the frosty ground in footsteps. Silence filled the woods where I walked. I stopped and listened. My dog, Mowli, pawed at the ground then froze with me and listened to sounds only a dog could hear. But I was listening to the silence.
The woods were deathly still, as always in the winter. I’d never seen such a wondrous winter world. And I’d seen many. The air was cold and I breathed it in deeply. Exhaling, I watched frost swirl from my lips. It was cold. I moved again when Mowli’s whimper woke me from my trance.
I brushed the snow off a log and sat quietly. Listening. The cold stung my face making me pull my fur hood closer. I shivered but didn’t wish the cold away.
After a moment I stood, knowing darkness was coming soon. When I climbed over the log, I felt my fingers tingle as if each one had its own beating heart. Ignoring my fingers, I looked ahead and saw a fort my best friend and I had built in a tree. We’d built it only a few years past but it seemed a long time ago.
I passed the fort and headed to the end of the trees. I knew what the dangerous of the open tundra and the frozen sea beyond it were. But I had to see the sky. There was something about a blue sky, frosted with clouds and snow, that called to me. The snow creaked under my feet like an old, wet canoe as I edged out of the woods. When my footsteps stopped the world was completely quiet. Beyond the woods and I, tundra opened out beneath the cold, graying sky. If it hadn’t been for Mowli’s panting, the silence could’ve almost been eerie.
A Father’s Teaching.
The cold nipped my face as I stood there. It made me think of something my father had told me when I was just a boy. Automatically I turned toward our village. Our falls roared just out of sight beyond the trees. In the dwindling light, I was ready for the quiet bustle of home. But I stood still, not ready to leave, my eyes taking the wintry world as I remembered my fathers words.
“Iwahili,” He had told me. “the cold gives a man his strength and his energy.” The races we ran, the games we made, the work we did, all showed how our lives were a test of energy and strength. My father informed me that our strength came from the cold.
“Because,” He explained, “we fight to beat the cold. We work to keep it from our homes, our families, and our bodies. We fight to find food and clothes to live in it. And so, it makes us strong.”
When I’d wondered how it made us strong, he’d answered. “We respect the cold because it is deadly and harsh. And because of it we work hard to live. And that hard work makes us strong. Winter is like the lessons I teach you. Not all of life is easy, but we weren’t born for easy. We were born for greatness. Son, some of the greatest things are the hardest to get.”
I opened my eyes and sighed. My frozen breath spiraled around in air. Darkness swept into the sky above me. The frozen tundra, pure white, lay serenely asleep. Not a sound was made. And then I saw it. The effects of the cold brought out a beauty that nothing else could. It was a power unrivaled, a silence unmatched, and a beauty better than any other.
“Son,” My father had said. “never hate life’s lessons. The way you react to those lessons will make you into the man your going to be. Hate the cold and you will get no good out of it. Love it, or any lesson, and you will learn something good. Perfect days aren’t what water the plants. The rain is what waters them. Iwahili, trials are your rain. Let them water you. And remember lessons come, not to hurt you, but to make you wiser.”
His words on my mind, I turned away from the silence and followed my footsteps back to the village. Winter had new meaning in my eyes. I knew deep down that the Creator was the One Who made the lessons my father spoke of. Like my father wanted the best for my siblings and I, the Creator wanted what was best for the village, His people. And at times our lives were rough and cold. But the Creator would use those times to make us better.
My father didn’t mean that the Creator wanted bad things to happen or made evil. I knew better than that. He meant that even if things were bad, good could come from them. Because that was how our Creator worked. No bad thing got in His way. He would simply turn it around and bring something good out of it. And then, in the end, He would destroy evil and those who loved it. Evil would end. So we searched for the Creators ways, wanting to find His goodness, and we found it everywhere.
From hard hunting days, to new friends, to the coldest of tundras, He was there. He could use it all. For everything was His. I smiled as I realized my father’s words weren’t about winter weather after all. They were about the Creator who made the winter. Because our Creator had made the cold, and all things, to show us Himself. And if we embraced the life He gave us and looked for ways to see Him, then He would do just that. He would show Himself present in every situation.