Simcha Fisher, author of The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning writes for several publications and blogs daily at Aleteia. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and ten children. Without supernatural aid, she would hardly be a human being.
I had to shovel snow the other day, and I'm still mad about it. I mean to say, I'm still reaping the benefits!
I have this theory, see. Everyone knows that shoveling is a wonderful, aerobic workout; but my theory is that shoveling is also the most complete and rigorous spiritual exercise you can perform. There is no lesson about life, no revelation about the soul that cannot be gained through shoveling. It's practically designed to fight each one of the deadly sins in turn. For instance:
Obviously. There are few mistakes for which you will be so thoroughly and incontestably repaid than shoveling slothfully. It may seem perfectly reasonable to skip clearing that last three inches of compacted frozen slush because you've been working steadily for a good hour-and-a-half, and your nose is numb and your back is steaming and you fingers are nothing but ten little nubbins of stabbing pain. So you give it the old "Aw, close enough" salute, and you may even think you've gotten away with it -- until you have to go somewhere in the van. You tighten your seat belt, you take a big breath, you wait for traffic to clear, and you tromp hard on the gas -- and you discover that, man, you really could have used an extra three inches of clearance. Unless you like being stuck halfway out onto the highway with a vanful of shrieking children, just dangling there, hung up like a big fat fish on a pike, begging to be broadsided by the first hot shot who's checking his smartphone instead of watching the road.
I, for one, do not like that.
It happens to me every winter at least once. Maybe not every time, and maybe I'll go through most of the winter without it happening, but sooner or later, I'll be there chipping and chopping my way through the end part where the heavy duty plow went by, and I just get to working so hard that my pants fall down.
Yes, I understand that "humility" doesn't mean feeling humiliated. But throw me a bone here, will you? I'm trying to write, and my pants fell down.
If you've just finished shoveling and you can still think about anything other than sitting down to die, my Hello Kitty hat is off to you.
And so on. There are other miscellaneous spiritual lessons to be learned, too. For instance, you have two choices when you are shoveling: you can either pick up and carry a manageable load, and make lots of trips, which takes time and patience; or you can load 'er up like a tough guy, hoist it, stagger a few steps, and end up tipping the whole mess onto your feet. Chew, if you're still making New Year's resolutions, on that!
Another good lesson? A large part of shoveling well is just forging ahead, working hard, huff and puff, toil and strain. But all the energy in the world is not going to do you much good if you forget where you are. For instance, you might have a real good rhythm going, and you're chugging along like Mary Anne and making wonderful progress, but you must not forget that there is a big rock in the middle of the driveway. Ow. Teeth. Ow.
Now, eventually, when everything thaws out, you should probably dig out that big rock and make your driveway nice and smooth so you won't have this problem next winter. But for now, the most prudent course of action is to go slow, work around it, and temper your enthusiasm with a little strategy and foresight so you don't accidentally bite your tongue off.
Oh, so that is a metaphor for sin or something.
One more thing: when shoveling, there are many, many opportunities to work on the sin of envy. The thing about New Hampshire people is, we have perfected the stone face. We feel completely comfortable with just looking at people, just looking, with bland, detached, inhuman, placid fascination, at (for instance) some lady who is clearly on the verge of hysteria as she hacks away at her ice-encrusted mailbox with one hand and holds up her pants with the other, leaving no hands free to wipe her nose, which is flowing like the mighty Mississippi. There are people who drive gleaming little Ford F-150's with a fine yellow plow mounted on the front, and who are toting a brand new 414 cc two-stage snow blower with power steering for superior maneuverability. They drive by my house in fleets every time I shovel, and they look, and they look. Where are they going? Someplace warm. And while they're on their way, they're drinking coffee that someone else made for them, their noses are nose-colored, and they are wearing hats that belong to them and do not have Hello Kitty on them. And they just look, like I'm a display in the store window, put there for their stony-hearted, warm-nosed looking pleasure.
So, yeah, a chance to work on envy. I am also making plans to buy my own hat.