CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a place of winter For the Years of Winter…
I’m listening to Kate Campbell singing Three Rusty Nails. The devil has ten thousand lures, she sings, but three rusty nails, that’s the cure, for ten thousand lures. It is a great song, and it makes me miss going to professional conferences.
Not the conferences themselves. I don’t miss the trivial arguments over irrelevant issues. I miss the fellowship. And I miss driving to get there. And listening to Kate’s CD as I drive.
Not just driving to conferences. I miss driving to church, too.
At the start of my preaching career, and at its end, I drove on Sunday mornings to where I would preach, twenty to thirty miles. In those early days, I drove to Solsberry, Koleen, Mineral, Walker’s Chapel, Greene County Chapel. At the end, I drove to Walnut or Tampico or Morrison.
Throughout, I would drive to retreats and conferences and district meetings.
Those drives were times of anticipation. The greatest anticipation was being with my friends, feeling that great joy of being with my teammates, sharing stories, being reminded of who I was.
In the early days I sang as I drove. I especially liked to sing Don S. McCrossan’s Gospel song, “On the Jericho Road.” I sang that in the later days, too, but by then cars had tape and CD players, so I could listen to Kate Campbell and others sing. That’s why listening to Kate now reminds me of those days alone in the car, anticipating with joy that I would once again find out who I was.
That’s why I went to conferences, and why I go to reunions, and why I go to church—to find out who I am.
Life is lived in relationships. We know who we are only in relationships to others. I am the son of John and Mildred, the grandson of Harry and Henrietta, of Elmer and Maggie, the brother of Mary and Margey and Jim, the husband of Helen, the father of Mary Beth and Katie, the grandfather of Brigid and Joseph, the father-in-law of Patrick, with too many uncles and aunts and cousins and friends to name, the colleague of even more.
My parents are dead. So is Margey. So are many of my aunts and uncles and cousins and friends and colleagues. Those relationships are gone, in person, but my identity from those relationships remains. My identity is more than just the sum of those relationships, but I am who I am, and remain so, because of them.
I’m still on the Jericho road, listening to the voices that remind me who I am.
John Robert McFarland
The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where life is defined by winter even in the summer!