Most of Iowa spent the better part of last week dealing with around two feet of snow. Whether we or someone we hired shoveled it, blew it, threw it, or just sort of pushed it around with our car tires, we have all–in one way or another–contended with Mother Nature’s frozen gift that has kept on giving.
Because of my spouse’s heart condition, I am the lone snow remover in our household. To help me out, I have a snowblower with a cab that I can take on and off (depending on whether or not I need it to protect me from the wind), and I have two different kinds of shovels: A metal snow pusher and a plastic snow scooper. In other words, as far as tools go, I am set up pretty well.
I’m kind of an anxious snow remover…at least prior to going out to remove the snow. On snowy days I pace from window to window and door to door–listening for any sound of snow blowers or shovels in the distance–letting me know that it’s time to give into the neighborhood “peer pressure” and get outside. I watch the radar to see if there is going to be a break in the snow. I plot and plan how I’m going to blow the driveway, and where I’m going to try and place the snow. I him-haw about waiting for the snow to end versus blowing the drive and the walks while it’s still snowing just so that the piles don’t get too large. No matter the strategy, the snow always gets moved.
The other day during one of my many snow removal sessions, I was blowing back snow into our yard while making sure there was a puppy area for our little dog Dexter. I would blow the snow forward, then put the blower in reverse and come back for another pass. As I was doing this, I noticed my back and my shoulder starting to hurt, which is something that doesn’t routinely occur when I use my blower. Then I realized that while the blower was in reverse, I was also pulling the machine–trying to go faster and harder than Reverse number 2 would go. Essentially, I was fighting the machine instead of letting it simply do the work.
As I continued on, I thought about all of the times I have done something similar in other parts of my life: Making drastic changes in diet and exercise routines in order to see faster weight loss results; Painting with broad strokes in social activism–demanding sweeping changes all at once, in order to see the change I want more quickly; Bringing an “all or nothing” mentality to my relationships–insisting that things are done my way or no way at all. Over and over again I do this–fighting, instead of letting the food or the exercise or the changes or the compromise simply do their work. And over and over again, I find myself hurting because of it. Maybe you can relate?
Good spiritual teachers say, “What you resist persists.” In other words, when I resist letting things work on their own timetable instead of my own, and when I resist the natural flow of relationships, and metabolism, and justice-making, that flow rages even harder. Or, as Richard Rohr says, “To actively oppose something actually engages with it and gives it energy.” The idea isn’t to simply adopt an “anything goes” mindset. The idea is to find balance–”neither clinging nor opposing”--as Rohr puts it. In terms of our metaphor, it isn’t to fight the snowblower doing the work in reverse, but neither is it to rely solely on the blower’s power alone.
So maybe this week you can ponder with me what it is you’re fighting? What is it that you’re pushing to happen on your own timetable? Who is it that you are demanding see things your way immediately or sooner? Where is the resistance happening in your life? Are you resisting holding on? Are you resisting letting go? Are you resisting letting things fix themselves over time? Are you resisting the work it takes to fix something? Are you resisting movement? Are you resisting being still?
Whatever it is for you, I pray that you might take some time this week to think about what it would look like to stop fighting. What would your life, and your health, and your relationships look like if you stopped resisting whatever it is you have been resisting? Perhaps we’d all hurt just a little less from trying to go harder and faster and our own way? I’m not sure, but I’m willing to try…how about you?
Interrupting the persistence of resistance with you,
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen was called as the pastor of St. Paul Congregational UCC in June of 2020. Prior to her call to St. Paul, Pr. Melissa worked as a hospice chaplain in the Ames, IA area, following pastorates at rural churches in Central Iowa and Southern Illinois. Pr. Melissa is a second-career pastor with a background in agribusiness and production & supply operations. She received her M.Div. from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO, and holds a MA Ed. in Adult Education and Training, and a BA in Organizational Communications.