The Pressure Cooker of Life

The pressure cooker of life wears me down some days, no doubt it wears on others too.

Pressure cooker, defined by Merriam-Webster:

1. an airtight utensil for quick cooking or preserving of foods by means of high-temperature steam under pressure

2. a situation or environment that is fraught with emotional or social pressures

Pressure so great that a prominent pastor’s son ended his life.

Pressure so great that wee ones were and are ripped from wombs.

Pressure so great that innocent spectators and participants were terrorized with pressure cooker bombs at a marathon.

And there’s a baby named Charlotte who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type I. She’s dying. Charlotte’s mama dances with her in the living room to “Blessed Be Your Name” as she holds dear to precious moments that remain.

The grief feels unbearable for Aden’s mama. Her sweet boy passed just weeks ago to cancer, and she and the rest of the family are on a cruise to help relieve the pain, but tears stream in quiet on the ship deck. The pain from loss overwhelms Caribbean beauty, and she sits paralyzed, just her and God in this place of sorrow.

And down your street, men and women fight. Husbands and wives sleeping in different rooms, and they can’t figure out how to fix this. They don’t remember the love, the promise that brought them to the alter years ago. The pressure is building and it needs to be released. Somehow. Now.

On top of all this comes the rain, the sleet, and the snow. We’re hearty here in Minnesota, but when it’s April 18th and it’s been cloudy for weeks and the temperature hasn’t risen above 40-something except for maybe a day, everyone feels the pressure. So when the 1-4 inch snow predicted turned to a major snowstorm in the middle of my work day yesterday, I just about lost it. It had been raining and sleeting all morning as I made my way from house to house for therapy. The sleet turned to snow before my 12:30 visit, so when I returned to my car an hour later, it was covered with a thick layer of snow. And the scraper was nowhere to be found, so my wipers sufficed. Cold snow fell in on the driver’s side arm rest and onto my pants as I pushed the automatic window button, the bare minimum necessary to remove snow from the side windows just enough so I could see. As if denying the snow’s presence was going to make it go away.

The roads were snow packed, the only thing filling baseball fields was snow, and I felt like I was trapped in a snow globe with no hope of ever getting out.

Even the snow packed trees were hard to see as beautiful because I kept thinking it’s April 18th, and we’re supposed to be wearing flip flops and shorts and playing outside on the playground today. For when life’s served you too much pressure, and there’s never an opening for release, finding beauty, finding something to be grateful for is like finding a needle in a haystack.

And when I got home, the task of clearing the driveway from inches of snow loomed.

The school had called notifying us of a school delay and my husband stayed late to avoid the traffic, so after the girls went to bed, my son volunteered to help me shovel.

I shoveled one strip all the way down the driveway, and to be honest, I wasn’t up to the task. But my son, he was pressing on, and I didn’t have to beg or plea, so I thought it best for me to be an example.

After a while, I told him “I can’t do this anymore. It’s too long, it’s too cold.” “Who cares,” he said, and kept shoveling. After that, I was determined to finish that driveway, to be an example whether I liked it or not.

The cold pressed in even greater. The snow was heavy, and it felt like each shovel-full was 20 pounds. And in my grumbling, my complaining to myself, I thought of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, how her book and her blog and through nearly three years of reading, her message of gratitude, of eucharisteo, has been pressing in on me. So I gave thanks for my son who was still shoveling and not complaining one bit, for a flurry of snowflakes illuminated by the street light.

But in all honesty, those moments of gratitude turned to anger because I was still shoveling heavy loads of snow, and there was still half of the driveway to shovel, and it was still. April 18th. In the allowing myself to experience that anger, I thought of messages on anger I heard earlier that day on faith radio, how when we’re angry our “personhood,” our sense of security is threatened. And another message I heard last week about turning our anger not towards others but FOR others, so justice can be served for all the right reasons.

And I realized, I am angry. My sense of security has been threatened, my “personhood” has been threatened. So I started throwing snow in the name of justice. I threw snow for the tiny souls that never got to breathe a breath. I threw snow for little Charlotte who’s going to pass to heaven while still an infant, for Charlotte’s mom who will grieve the death of her precious daughter before she knows it. I threw snow for the little boy whose beautiful life was cut short because evil prevailed through a bomb. And I asked God why? WHY?

In those moments of anger and throwing snow for justice and asking God why, these verses came to mind…

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from Godand not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.  2 Corinthians 4:7-11

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  Matthew 11:28-30

So I stopped and I stood still near the end of the driveway. The wind picked up, the snow blew cold on my cheeks, and I heard His still small voice “Feel my presence, even in the cold. Even in the cold.”


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