A birdsong in a snowstorm

It snowed hard here last Sunday. As I was getting ready for church and looking out my window at the snowflakes coming down, I heard a bird whistling that distinct high note that means “Spring is coming.” My first thought? This poor bird is confused. A birdsong doesn’t belong in a snowstorm. But the notes stuck with me far more than they would have on a clear, sunny day.

When I experience incongruity, I tend to rationalize it, or worse, to wish it away. At the start of the pandemic, I felt a desperate need to make sense of everything happening. As the year went on and my post-college future started to diverge unmistakably from what I’d imagined it would be, that feeling only intensified. God blessed me tremendously in my career plans while walking me through a hard emotional season, and I held joy in one hand and sorrow in the other, not knowing what to do with either. 

It’s not just a pandemic phenomenon, either. Every year, we celebrate births and marriages and mourn deaths and heartbreaks. We watch the sun set and then drive home in the dark. The need to rationalize it all can feel overwhelming. Focusing on joy over grief or grief over joy, birdsong over snow or snow over birdsong, harmonizes the cognitive dissonance and lessens the discomfort of tension. But what if we sat in the dissonance instead? What if we neither diminished grief nor stifled joy? What if we named them, sat with them, and let them be?

Maybe then we’d begin to see that though complexity is hard to hold, it is also beautiful. The most eye-catching tapestries are woven through with warm and cool hues alike—reds and greens, oranges and blues—yet opposite colors don’t diminish one another by their co-existence. In the same way, we can mourn trials while rejoicing in the growth that they bring. Acknowledging blessings does not diminish pain, and facing pain does not invalidate blessings.

The complexity of humanity reflects the God who made us in His image. The God who commands the morning is the same Jesus who says “Let the little children come to me.” He is both just and merciful, both Creator and Friend, and our inability to fit Him neatly into a logical paradigm makes Him neither less true nor less beautiful. We don’t have to understand complexity for it to change our hearts. We don’t have to make sense of it all to worship the God who created it all. And when we devote ourselves to worshiping the God who reigns over both sorrow and joy, we find room for a beauty we don’t have to explain—the beauty of a birdsong in a snowstorm.

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