Perhaps a bit more complex than that but today’s funtastic 3 hour snow removal project reminded me of some simple facts that take time to learn in life. I had a very nice young woman taking care of my home and my dogs while I was in Haiti. She did a great job but she doesn’t have the killer snow removal skills that I’ve honed over half a century. The ice storms defeated her in my absence. NO shame there, she is a young grasshopper and has time to learn. Home ownership adds to that dedication to see things through to the end. If memory serves me what was “good enough” at my parents house wasn’t good enough once I got my own house.
Seriously, having professionally plowed and shoveled snow at one point in my varied life, I have some skills and insight that many people don’t acquire. It helps when you have a half dozen bosses at the plowing company “coaching” you on your every mistake and pointing out the reasons behind the endless work that snow removal becomes. And much of the “advice” they gave applies more broadly to life. (Work with me here – after a week in Haiti, a high fever, and now snow shoveling 3 of 4 days since I’ve been back I’m running low on this profound stuff but this does apply.)
1. Check your oil before pulling the starting cord on the engine. If you pull that cord and let the engine get hot without enough oil in the engine it will fail. You get exactly one failure per engine. That applies to your soul as well. If you are not prepared with the right spiritual lubricants you will seize up and lose your engine when it gets too hot to operate without God’s balm.
2. Take a minute to survey your path. Taking time to see where you want the snow to end up is much more efficient than just turning on the snow blower and marching around. I had a friend do that a few years ago at the church where I was a Deacon. I still laugh when I think of her spiraling pattern across the driveway and sidewalks. She would up with more snow blowing back in her face and in her hair than she did on the banks around the building. Nobody had ever taught her how to aim the chute or pattern her runs to keep moving the snow to a destination. Most of us go through life like that: we just go and throw without any real consideration for where our output winds up.
And as a result we hurt ourselves. Snow blown into your eyes can blind you with ice crystals. You can become hypothermic or frost bitten. But most of all you spend a lot of energy you need for life on things that do nobody any good. Let God show you the path to take and aim where he points. He knows more about it than we do.
3. Take a breather from working now and again. If you grind away in the heavy wet snow for hours it will kill you. Even big strong dimwits like me. We call it “heart attack snow” in Minnesota. It is the worst stuff. It’s moisture content is so high it’s like shoveling a slushy at the convenience store. Life throws a fair amount of that stuff in front of us. It pays to let yourself rest on the shovel handle now and again and survey your progress and what you have left to do. Restore your heart rate, drink some water (hopefully of the Living Water variety) and say a prayer. You will be ready for the next round.
4. Do it right the first time. Taking half measures will usually shorten the work but leave you with a result that just doesn’t cut it in the long run. If you don’t get rid of all the slush while it is still slushy you will invariably be back outside dumping salt on the ice it becomes and then chipping away with an iron bar to break it up and remove it. I’d much rather spend 4 hours with a snow blower than 2 hours with an iron bar and a shovel. Today was an iron bar and shovel kind of day. My arms, neck, hands, and legs all ache from the pounding and lifting of 20 pound blocks of frozen sidewalk slush. How nice it would have been to get it while it was slush. (But I was in tropical Haiti so I have an excuse!) In my life it’s become clear to me that most things we tackle are the same way – half way means doing the same work 3 times. Not a short cut in the long run.
5. Check your results. When you’ve been out moving snow for 3 hours (like today) you are wiped out at the end of it. I was soaked, my snow suit was soaked, and I was starting to tremble from the exertion. But I took the time to go back over my work and make sure that I hadn’t missed anything. I will sleep well tonight knowing that I did my job well. No nagging concerns about what might have been done wrong. And I know that unless it snows again tonight I have a free day tomorrow.
As Christians we have a great manual to follow in the Bible. It tells you where to check the engine, how the pattern works, where the snow goes, and how often to take that rest. The final result check is pretty harsh – I’m aiming to be with Jesus when the final tally is taken. No slush or ice on my sidewalks if I can help it. Thankfully he keeps pointing out the patches I have missed.
The question for you is: Where are you in your snow removal project? Have you checked that oil? Are you exhausted and need to pause a minute to get your bearings? Where do you store your salt and shovel, and is there enough salt stored for the next storm – it will come whether or not you are ready.