I don’t know about you, but my case of The Februaries started about a month ago. I think its onset came with that unbroken chain of depressing gray skies, two months of winter-lengthened nights, and Saint Louis-style wet-cold wind. For me, this is the time of year when it feels like you just have to put your head down and soldier on until some blessed day in March when the robins show up to chase Punxsutawney Phil back into his hole. My daughter, Lizzie, takes a decidedly different approach to The Februaries than me.
Yesterday morning marked the birth date of her three-year-old little sister, Addison. Standing at a diminutive eighteen inches tall, Addison strikes me as short for her age. I’d bet an Abraham Lincoln that if she tried to get served at a Build-a-Bear party for three-year-olds, she’d get carded. In fact, if it weren’t for her strikingly lush brunette hair, and freakishly piercing azure eyes, I’d say she could easily pass for under twenty months old. But it doesn’t matter what I think. I don’t get to decide how old Addison is. That’s Lizzie’s job.
Addison joined our family several months ago, on Lizzie’s sixth birthday. She came to us pre-named. Unlike the more exotic members of her species-American Girl Dolls-there was no back-story indicating things like ethnicity, hobbies, or age. When it comes to dolls, it would seem that the lower the price tag, the more a child is required to use her own imagination. And when it comes to imagination, God put so much of it into Lizzie, that he had to reinforce her stitching at the seams. If imagination were money, Lisa and I would be retired by now, and our six-year-old would be supporting us.
At first, I thought all this talk of a doll baby birthday was merely another clever ploy to forestall her impending bedtime. “Daddy, we forgot to blow out candles on Addison’s birthday cake!” “Honey,” I said with an air of authority, “look at the clock. You’re already twenty minutes past your bedtime.” “But daddy,” she replied in that furtive voice that stretches bedtimes, and leads to one more snack, “What about her presents?” With that Lizzie emptied a bag full of five homemade, hand wrapped gifts. “Well…” I said, while noticing my wife’s raised eye-brow, “…I guess it couldn’t hurt to open a few presents. After all, it is her birthday.” Addison’s birthday booty included a paper GameboyTM just the right size for her tiny little polymer hands, as well as a self-portrait of the best big sister a doll ever had.
Like I said, Addison came without papers. And so this morning, it was hard to tell what to place on her tray for the traditional Wagner birthday breakfast-in-bed. Lizzie’s favorite morning fare is crepes filled with chocolate spread. And so, in addition to two Lizzie-sized unleavened pancakes, two little silver-dollar-sized crepes were served up on a miniature plate on the same tray. It took exactly .05 seconds for Lizzie to wipe the sand out of her eyes as the whole family sang, “Happy Birthday,” to the most well-loved inanimate object this side of the Mississippi. For one bright shining moment, Lizzie’s imagination transported my family and me away from The Februaries.
In this Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 5: 1-11), Jesus encountered a group of fishermen who found themselves smack in the middle of a February moment. They had been out all night long, and caught nothing for all their back-breaking efforts. After teaching the crowds, Jesus, in a very Lizzie-like way, stepped right into the middle of their February moment and invited them to play. Next thing you know, The Februaries were long gone. Just a moment ago, their nets served as a frame around emptiness. Now, with Jesus on board, their nets held a preposterous overflow of abundance.
There is a foundational Christian insight that people my daughter’s age instinctively grasp. Each and every day-even a gray, February day-is full of abundance. With those who have the right imagination to see it, every day is stretched full of opportunities for joy.
My friend Beth understands this essential Christian insight. Over the years, she noticed a recurrence of her depression around February. After praying and reflecting on it, a few years ago, she founded a February book club where members would share warm soup, and fellowship over a common text. Now, in her imagination, February conjures up images of warm fellowship rather than gray depression.
For the remainder of this month, can you invite Jesus on board to stretch your imagination to see cost-free opportunities for an abundance of joy? Even in the midst of a cold day, can you listen for the playful invitations of Christ calling you to come out and play with him?