In early January I sat in a dentist’s chair, my mouth filled with all the paraphernalia that comes with preparing a tooth for a crown. While leaning over top of me the dentist and her assistant were lamenting the end of the Christmas season and dreading the dreariness to come. “I hate January and February,” the one said, and the other agreed. “There’s nothing to look forward to.”
These early months of each year can be depressing. From a physiological point of view winter’s “shorter” days and less sunlight disrupts our internal body clock and that impacts our moods. Plus, all the Christmas festivities are a memory, but the holiday bills have yet to be to be paid. As some wit once said, “Tis the season to be melancholy.”
I happen to look forward to February since my birthday falls a week after Valentine’s Day, but I also admit I’m glad it is only 28 days long. February is truly a dreary month. It is literally the middle of winter – the ides of winter, as it were.
The soothsayer’s warning to Julius Caesar in William Shakespeare’s play of the same name prophesied his betrayal and death: “Beware the Ides of March.” Shakespeare’s words have stayed with us, branding the phrase with a dismal connotation.
For us, in 2021, the ides of winter comes with particularly heavy baggage. 2020 will go down in history as being an especially challenging year, but as Covid 19 continues its stealthy path through our world the relief we hoped for has not arrived. We have an ongoing sense of darkness and gloom. Spring may be on its way, but in the meantime we must beware the Ides of Winter.
The devotional book I am using this year is called Prevail, a word which encapsulates what I need to do to survive in these unusual days. For several days the Scripture readings were from Exodus and Numbers. It struck me that the barrenness of a winter landscape can be likened to that of a desert. Although one is cold and the other hot, both can be unfriendly, unforgiving places where any wrong turn can have fatal consequences.
Like the Israelites of old, I have a very real sense of aimless daily wanderings while waiting for the promised land. And like them, I am prone to negativity and grumbling. I have so much time on my hands, but little motivation. I have so many blessings, but my mind dwells on the things I cannot do. I cannot hug my granddaughter, go out to a restaurant, have a friend over for coffee, walk through the stacks at the library, go to church in person. I cannot hop on a plane to visit my son in Ontario. I am earthbound.
I am also earth focused. The debris at my feet prevents me from seeing the magnificence of creation. If I could just lift my eyes from the dead leaves on the dingy snow and instead look up at the stars that dot the heavens I would see anew the power of the God of the universe.
David found inspiration for his psalms as he looked up…
Ps 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Ps 121:1,2 I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Looking up reminded David of God’s ultimate power and unending love.
Stephen Hawking wrote, “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do… It matters that you don’t just give up.”
Mill Woods Presbyterian Church