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Polar Vortex

Early this morning I placed a notation in my calendar for the day of August 1, 2019, which on average is the hottest day of the year in Dallas. It was a simple reminder: “Remember the polar vortex of late January 2019.” Not that I have any real, existential experience of a polar vortex. Today the temperature in north Texas will reach the mid-fifties, and I have no way of comprehending what a negative 50-degree wind chill might feel like. But the recent weather reports and video footage out of the upper Midwest states have been compelling enough to prompt a certain sense of gratitude. When I start complaining about the oppressive humidity and heat of a sultry Dallas summer, I will need to stop and remember that we dodged the polar vortex that shut down the third largest city in America.

If you have been reading my column for a number of years, you know that I have come to see the weather and the seasons as a metaphor for life. They remind us that life is a journey, and that there is a rhythm to the journey that moves in a way that is similar to the earth’s orbit around the sun, migrating from darkness to light and from cold to warmth. We inevitably look for the “sweet spot” in life where we experience uncompromised joy and peace, and occasionally we land on that spot for a few minutes. But what if the real joy of life is found in the movement, the dynamism that keeps us growing and changing? Isn’t it true that even the perfect day at the beach would become excruciatingly boring at some point, prompting one to dream about spending time in the mountains or touring some great museums?

I have quoted the great French writer Albert Camus on many occasions. He had a dark view of life, and his novels are oppressively pessimistic, but he once famously said, “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.” That is the thought I leave with you today. Whether your polar vortex is a winter storm that has left you stranded, or a personal crisis that has enveloped you in darkness, know that the real “sweet spot” is God’s grace planted deeply within you, and that it is the source of peace and hope even in the midst of the storm.

Rev. Don Underwood