I woke up this morning at 3:00 a.m. I mean, I was wide awake – it might as well have been 7:00! I drank some lemonade and began to go through all my mental exercises that usually put me back to sleep. They didn’t work. Finally I watched part of an old Cliff Robertson and Lana Turner movie, followed by part of an old Terry Thomas movie. Sometime around 6:00 the movies or the tossing and turning or some combination of all the above put me back to sleep – for a bit. While I was awake, however, I checked the weather app on my phone. It was 5 degrees outside. 5 degrees! As I watched the early morning news, they showed film footage of a Coast Guard cutter upstate breaking its way through the ice-covered Hudson. It looked like a scene from Alaska. When I arrived at the church, the temperature had increased all the way up to 7 degrees.
Recently a lot of us have quit talking quite so much about “global warming” as about “global climate change.” On a very personal level, we’ve just been talking about how dreadfully cold it is. We’ve had church members sustain serious injuries on black ice this winter. We’ve all read stories of people without sufficient heat in their homes, or even stories of homes that caught fire because people were trying to stay warm by using inadequate and unsafe area heaters. It’s really been close to brutal – and there’s another month yet to go before spring is officially here.
One thing we can count on, thank goodness, is that the weather will change. It may not happen quickly enough to suit us on these frigid winter days, but things will warm up. Unfortunately, such is not always the case internally. Some folks live in only one season – always emotionally shivering in the cold and damp of loneliness, self-doubt, guilt, or senses of personal inadequacy. They have been made to feel that they are never quite good enough or wanted enough or welcome enough or loved enough.
The great English evangelist, John Wesley, told of the time when springtime came to his soul. He said: “I felt my heart strangely warmed.” You know when it happened? It was not in a stirring religious service with inspiring music and eloquent sermons. Instead, he was in a study group and heard someone read something Martin Luther had written about God’s Grace. When he suddenly realized that God did not consider him unworthy or inadequate but instead God loved and claimed him in spite of his shortcomings, suddenly his heart was “strangely warmed.” That’s how the winter of the soul is driven out. It happens when we quit listening so much to the world’s ideas or opinions about us (what we are or who we were meant to be) and listen to God’s onion instead: “Fear not, I have called you by name, and you are mine … You are precious and honored in My sight, and I love you.” (Isaiah 43, selected verses) That is the truth about who you are. You are God’s, precious and honored and loved by the Lord who made you. That’s what Grace means – that God loves us free of charge, before we could do a single thing to earn it. That’s what Wesley was talking about when he said he heard the story of Grace and suddenly his heart was “strangely warmed.” And that knowledge (of God’s unconditional and limitless love for us) melts the internal ice and bring a warmth to our souls that external temperatures can never take away.