We Minnesotans are a hearty bunch! We deal with prolonged cold day after day. The average high temperatures are below freezing for weeks on end. The weather map is mostly blues and purples and whites. Weather reports do not only give the actual temperature; they include wind chill too. The ice on the lakes gets thicker. The snow piles get higher. We shovel and run the snow blower, ice fish and snowmobile, cross country ski and snow shoe. Minnesotans are often heard saying, “We choose to live here.” “We enjoy the theater of the seasons.” “We’re tough.” “We can take the cold.”
As much as we talk “Minnesota nice” about winter, after long periods of confinement inside, bundling up to go outside, higher heating bills, snow emergencies, parking bans, slippery roads, and a film of salt on the car, just to name a few of the hassles of winter, cabin fever sets in and our patience runs thin. If we Minnesotans are truly honest about the challenges of winter, it is not always so nice. For some, it causes sad, blue days. For others, it escalates irritation and agitation, crabbiness and complaining. Worn down and demoralized, sometimes tempers flare. Winter can be a time when it is increasingly difficult to love others and practice the virtues.
Aware of the spiritual dangers of wintertime, it is imperative for Christian Minnesotans to consciously and firmly recommit to Jesus’ Law of Love and virtuous living during these trying times. Jesus wants his disciples to go above and beyond “nice.” He gave us a new commandment, “Love one another” (Jn 13:34), not just on warm and sunny days, but every day. The standards of virtuous living apply all the time, especially when we are cold and tired. Not only should we clothe ourselves with heavy jackets and boots, caps and mittens, we should also clothe ourselves with “heartfelt mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another” (Col 3:12). While there may be more slipping and falling during wintertime, not just on the ice but also to temptation, Christians do their best to stand firm in the fruits of the Holy Spirit, to practice and exhibit “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22,23).
Spring is still a long way off. We dare not let anything, even snow and cold, derail our baptismal commitment to walk in Jesus’ ways. Winter is a time to persevere. Let us not only turn up the heat in our homes, let us also turn up the heat of our love for God and neighbor (Mt 22:37,39).