Nearly every wedding performed in America since the turn of the 21st century has included 1 Corinthians 13:13 in its program: "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love" (NIV). The cadence of this simple verse is as poetic as the words themselves, which has given it an almost mythical character. Like the opening lines of Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," there is something that plucks the soul when these words are spoken--something that dares the reader's mind and spirit to soar.
My wife, five children, and I live a rather simple life. Our home is of modest size, our belongings are of modest quality, and our dreams are of modest ambition. At the same time, my wife, Beth, has built a home for our family that centers on genuine love, encouragement, and traditional family values. Although I sometimes upset the proverbial apple cart with my impetuousness, Beth tends to hold things together, providing our family with a true place of refuge in a world increasingly gone awry.
It amazes me just how patient she is. I am quite a perfectionist, which is clearly a curse when one has five children. For instance, on sunny days, I am fine with the kids going out into the yard and playing for hours on end; however, when it is raining or snowing outside, I prefer that they stay indoors. Their outdoor excursions on such days usually result in mud or snow being tracked through the entire house, piles of clothes that require washing, and soiled arms and legs that end up on clean couches and chairs. On more than one occasion I've voiced my displeasure with slicker'ed or parka'ed kids going out to face their tempests. Even so, Beth always says something like, "They're kids. They just want to have fun. I'll clean everything up." Again, her patience and understanding are epic and, quite frankly, foreign to me.
There have been times, though, when I've watched the kids outside playing in the weather and, hearing her gentle counsel in my mind, softened to her "logic." In those moments, I watch the mud splatter beneath little knees or observe the snowballs hurling through the air--all in the presence of giggles and big-toothed grins--and think, "They are having more than fun; they are living!" This is particularly true on the snowy days. Let's face it, there is something truly magical about snow.
And I distinctly remember that magic from my childhood--the quiet mornings when I would wake up to a blanket of soft whiteness in the forest surrounding my boyhood home, the thrill of a day off from school, and the anticipation of sleigh-riding and snowman-building. Sunny days were easy, rainy days were fun, but snowy days were sensational! I remember coming in from a cold, snowy adventure and having my mother waiting with a hot cup of cocoa or shedding my wet clothing to sit by the fireplace to warm up and dry out. It was idyllic. For me, it was the closest thing to heaven on earth.
Knowing this, I nevertheless endeavor to deprive my children of its charm. It's one thing to demand an indoor activity on a rainy day, but it is quite another to have no footprints in the snow. God said the greatest thing we can do in our lives of faith is express love to him and to others. What greater expression of that love from a father than to lighten up, to let the kids be kids, to encourage them to soar, and to declare that the greatest of things in our home is snow! Of course, I am far from championing snow boots and parkas. You might say that I have miles to go; I have miles to go. But I will get there; this promise I will keep.