I don’t know about you, but this month has tested my love for snow. In general, when other people complain about the snow I say “Bring it on!” I love sledding. I like its beauty. I like that it’s just something different. I even enjoy the challenge of driving in it. I mean if it’s cold we might as well have snow on the ground. That’s what I think. But one thing that I do not like (and have never liked) is shoveling it!
To me, shoveling snow is completely pointless. I mean, it’s just going to melt in a few days anyway! I’d rather just put on my boots and walk through it, or drive through it, rather than wasting my time moving it from point A to point B. I would much rather spend my time building a snowman, building snow forts, having snowball fights, going sledding, exploring the woods, sliding around on ice, OK you get the drift. Or, I’d rather be inside sitting on the couch.
So I never enjoy shoveling, and in fact it really is one of the few things that really irritates me. I’m generally pretty laid-back, but having to go out at 9 PM and shovel snow really irritates me. I’m not very fun to be around when I’m irritated, and frankly, I don’t really enjoy being around me when I’m irritated, so this winter I decided to try to conquer this area of my life. How can I trick myself into actually enjoying snow shoveling? Snow will come – how can I approach it without irritation?
The first part of the answer came when I decided to talk with my wife. She always wants me to shovel the snow. Always. This has irritated me in the past, but this year I wanted to actually find out why. So I asked her. Not the sarcastic and accusatory “why” like “Why are you so weird?” But the true, legit, “I would like to understand where you’re coming from because I am interested and I kinda like you” type of way. We’ve been married long enough that I can pull this off. So she told me.
She said something like, “I know it’s weird, and I know it’s not that big of a deal to have a little snow on the ground, but I think maybe it’s partly because one time when I was driving on the interstate I hit an icy patch and slid into the ditch. I made a full 360 spin and slammed into the snow in the median, and it really scared me. Ever since then I’ve just really not liked ice and snow on the roads. And maybe it also ties into a need for control. Like, I can’t control the weather, but I can at least control my sidewalk and my driveway. I think maybe that’s why I like having our driveway and sidewalk shoveled.”
The 6th Love Language
Gents, we’ve officially found a 6th Love Language: Snow Shoveling!
Whether I think that’s a good reason or not, it’s a true reason for her, and so I realized that when I shovel the driveway I am showing her love. So why wouldn’t I do it? It’s free. It’s not that complicated. It just takes some time, and I can exhibit true love for her. So that new understanding got me through the first three snows of this month. I shoveled the snow without any irritation.
The next step on my journey was that I realized that I like spending time with the boys, so why wouldn’t I have the boys come out with me so we could shovel together? Brilliant! So for the next two snows I brought them out with me and we actually had a lot of fun shoveling together. We were quite the snow removal crew! It was a win-win, because it was also teaching them grit and resilience and the importance of hard work.
Suffering Is Meaningful
That brings us to the last two snows. By this time I was honestly getting a little tired of showing love to my wife and discipling my boys. Sad, but true. I needed something else to keep me going, and I found it in a book called Man’s Search For Meaning. In this book, Victor Frankel explains that each person has a deep desire to know that they are achieving a purpose. That what we are doing has meaning. He said that he has observed that there are three basic categories for achieving meaning and purpose in our lives:
- To accomplish something
- To experience something beautiful or fun or joyful
- To love another person
- To endure suffering with courage, dignity, and integrity
He goes on to point out that when life presents us with a challenge, we have the opportunity to meet that challenge. Our behavior during that challenge is inherently meaningful. In other words, if I can endure my suffering well then that is purposeful. I believe that it honors God, and I believe it builds my character so that I can grow and be ready for the next challenges that come my way.
For the last snow of the month, in subzero temperature, I reminded myself that if I approached my suffering with courage and dignity then that was meaningful.
It may seem like a small thing that you’re going through today, or it may seem like a huge thing. But ultimately it doesn’t matter. Suffering is suffering, whether it’s a splinter or something unimaginable. If we can bear up under our suffering, that is purposeful. That is meaningful. How about you? What type of suffering is getting you down? Endless spreadsheets that you have to send to your bosses? Sickness? Refrigerator compressors failing after only a few months? COVID cancellations? Having no control over people who won’t do what they’re supposed to do? Remember that enduring this suffering is not wasted. It is meaningful.
Hopefully this post will inspire you that whatever suffering you have to endure today, you can endure it with courage and integrity and make it a meaningful experience. It isn’t pointless. It is purposeful.