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With Snow in My Boots

| written by Erin Thomas | 2 comments

snowy footsteps

The footsteps of Jesus are often marked in sand. Recent weather has them marked in snow. 

My word for the year is “Nouwen”, as in Henri Nouwen. Action words, descriptive words, all other words seemed to carry too much pressure (even words designed to release me from pressure). I wondered how other people had walked this way of Christ, and then realized that was precisely what I wanted to do: I wanted to walk in someone else’s footsteps. I wanted to spy his campsites, the fires empty and old; see how he had navigated treacherous terrain; find the quiet spots where he had refreshed himself with water; visit the same homes of welcoming, and perhaps unwelcoming, people he did; but most importantly, I wanted to travel the places where he fell. 

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to gawk at someone else’s failings or pat myself on the back for negotiating a tight squeeze where Nouwen might not have. I want to find the places where there is stumbling in the snow, where his footsteps falter, or where he tarried in dangerous places for a night or so too long. I don’t just want to, I need to. I need to discover these pitfalls on the journey so that I might see my own humanity. In walking the roads Nouwen walked, I will come face-to-face with human frailty over and over again, yet knowing the persistent love glowing from Nouwen’s life, I believe I’ll come face-to-face with Jesus Himself again and again and again. 

The strange thing about choosing to walk in a name’s footsteps is the climate and weather and conditions may have been altogether different for this Henri Nouwen, priest, sojourner, wounded healer. Where it might have been summer for him walking through a particular place, it’s certainly winter for me now. The drifts are deep, often covering up his tracks. The wind is biting, the snow blinding. I’m bundled up warm in a parka, cap, mittens and snow-pants but the extra weight is dragging me down. Ice crystals are forming around my mouth where my scarf covers my face, my skin feels like it’s on fire, and I think snow has wormed its way between my ankles and my boots. It’s freakishly cold and irritates my skin red raw.  

Strange, I have barely started my year’s journey with Nouwen and I have already discovered (or re-discovered) a powerful truth: I’m stumbling in places where Nouwen apparently strode strong. And I haven’t even made it up this first-week hill! Still I can almost see him looking back, through the blizzard, a hint of a smile on his face, and I hear an echo of his words: “Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure.

I give a wry smile in return, plant my hands in the snow, push myself up, and carry on in the silence and the snow.

What about you?
What is the weather surrounding you and your word?
Has your word brought on climate changes?
Has another gone on before, and been brought to mind as you live your word?

{photo credit}

Erin Thomas is a Family Support Program Coordinator at the Lac La Biche Canadian Native Friendship Centre in Alberta, Canada. Between snowstorms, she coordinates the local food bank, LGBTQ support program, and family resource centre. Along with her church family at Lord of Glory Lutheran, Erin coordinates the youth community and loves hanging out with teenagers of all stripes and names—even the ones who love Justin Bieber. She loves playing pirates with her two small nephews… except when they make her walk the plank. Connect with Erin on her blog.