The Parable of the Snow-blower

Allow me to give you a little background information. In May of 2006 the MacPhail’s purchased a quaint little A-frame cottage North of Kingston, Ontario. Along with purchasing the cottage, we negotiated the inclusion of a few other items including a snow-blower. I knew a snow-blower would come in handy in this region, which was reputed to have excessive snow accumulation. I had no personal experience operating a snow-blower, but I had heard such great things about them that I deemed it a necessity.

The first winter came and went and, strangely enough, I had no occasion to use the snow-blower. When we were at the cottage, the snow was minimal. When the storms hit, we were in Toronto.

Winter #2: I arrive at the cottage on the evening of December 30, 2007. I park on the road since the driveway is impassable from the snow. ‘No problem’, I think to myself, ‘I’ll just fire-up the snow-blower tomorrow.’ The next day we are walloped by a massive snow storm. I make my way out to the garage and roll out the snow-blower. I’m excited. I’m anticipating the power of the machine and how it will make quick work of these substantial snow piles……but it won’t start. I notice it also has an electric starter, and so I plug it in……still no success. I play around with the choke setting, I manipulate some levers, and prime the gas……still nothing.

After more than an hour of experimentation, I launch an all-out search for the owner’s manual. I can’t seem to recall where I put it. I had never actually read the thing, so I had no instructions to recall from memory.

The storm continued steadily and snow fell for more than 24 hours straight. The accumulation of snow was substantial, to say the least. And, unfortunately, I never succeeded to get my snow-blower started. I was frustrated. I was agitated. I needed this snow-blower to help me cope with the storm. My first instinct was to blame (and kick) this, apparently, faulty piece of machinery. My second instinct was a lot more balanced–Why did I wait almost 2 years before attempting to start the snow-blower? Why did I wait for a massive snow storm before testing the snow-blower? Why hadn’t I read, or at least browsed the instruction manual? How did I allow myself to lose track of the manual?!

As I asked myself these questions, my mind drifted into theological reflection. I suspect that many of us regard God in a similar manner to how I regarded my snow-blower. We’re glad to know that we have God nearby, ‘just in case’. We know something about His power, and we have heard others speaking glowingly about Him, but we have never had any personal experience of Him. Eventually, the storms of life come rolling in and we find ourselves reeling. We call out for God’s help, but get the sense we might be on our own. Our instinct is to shout, ‘God, where are you when I really need you?!’ Our instinct is to blame God.

I want to clarify that the point of this parable is not to portray God as being like a snow-blower that won’t start. Rather, the point of this parable is to note how many of us take for granted the things that will help us cope in the midst of fierce storms.

Snow-blowers, of course, do not stop or reverse storms. Snow-blowers simply clear a path for us in the midst of a storm, or following a storm. Similarly, the Bible most often portrays God walking with us in the midst of trouble, rather than as a God who determines to make sure we never face adversity. Psalm 23 is a great example of this.

I am glad that God is not like a snow-blower that won’t start. I am comforted by the notion that He wants to help me cope with life’s fierce storms. And I am renewed in my awareness that there is something left for me to do. God has provided us with a manual (the Bible) to gives us a sense of how He operates. I don’t think it is wise to wait for a storm to hit before we consult the manual. I suspect we would blame God a lot less for our storms, if we spent more time acquainting ourselves with Him during the pleasant days. There are benefits to familiarizing ourselves with God and His ways even during seasons of ease and prosperity.

This is because God is so much more than my rescue plan. Jesus is so much more than the agent for my celestial insurance policy. He is the Creator who reaches out in love to His creation. I am grateful that ‘the manual’ doesn’t always read like a manual, but rather, it often reads as a letter of affection written by a Father to His children.

This is someone who I will gratefully welcome in a storm, but this is also someone I’d like to interact with everyday. I’m so glad that’s possible.

Please excuse me, it’s time to go find that manual.

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