I’ve only been in a handful of true whiteouts (as in: A weather condition in which the features and horizon of snow-covered country are indistinguishable due to uniform light diffusion. Not what covers up pen mistakes) in my thirty some odd years living in Western Canada. The other night was the most recent.
I was driving and going a cautious pace of 60 km/hour due to high winds and blowing snow in the pitch black of night, when I hit a stretch of highway that was covered with snow and the wind kicked up an extra notch. Added to the mix was dense blanket of blowing snow and it was like I hit a wall with my truck. I lost my orientation due to the swirling white all around me. It felt like I was being tossed upside down in a snow globe.
My headlights didn’t even penetrate a couple feet into the white, they just bounced back at me and the only things that kept me from driving into the ditch were the rumble strips down the center-line and the shoulder-line. I bounced off them a couple of times as I tried to get my bearings. By this time I was only driving 10 km/hr and trying to figure out where my lane was and which way it headed, because I knew if I stopped there was a good chance someone would run into me, as there were vehicles coming up behind me.
Eventually the road cleared up some and the wind shifted enough that I gained better visibility, but I remained hyper-vigilant and tense for the remainder of the drive home.
Another memorable whiteout for me happened while I was horse-wrangling in the Yukon. It was mid-September and we were hunting for caribou out of their Caribou Flats Camp. It was a wildly-remote and open flat between mountain ranges that the caribou herds often migrate through. We had our horses on top of one mountain to scout into the valley before us and could see a storm brewing over Mount Pike. Guide Donn decided to descend down into the valley below as we watched the storm clouds move in closer, heavy and black with snow.
We were caught exposed on the top of the mountain, with slippery rock under our feet and no protection from the driving winds that started battering us. It began snowing as we were leading our horses along the treacherous rocky descent. I was last in line behind our hunter, who was a number of feet behind Donn.
The winds blasted us and the snow fell heavier and thicker and suddenly I couldn’t see anything. Ice crystals clawed at my eyes and the white became dizzying, compounded by the sound of roaring wind filling my ears. My horse Mocha butted his head right up into my back pack and pushed me forward—right into the back of my hunter’s horse. He was only a foot or so in front of me and I couldn’t even see him! I grabbed a hold of his tail as he started moving and hung on. Mocha continued to follow me with his head tucked right up in my pack.
For what seemed like a lifetime, (but was actually only 30 minutes according to Donn later) we inched our way down the bald mountainside until we could finally hole up in a snug little hollow of a valley that protected us from the brunt of the wind and snow. Donn had successfully guided us to safety! He mentioned to me as we hunkered down, that it was only because his familiarity with the terrain that lay ahead of us that he had been confident enough to keep moving forward.
In that little hollow, we enjoyed a cup of tea boiled on a little butane stove that Donn had decided to bring along that day, because the chances of finding enough wood to build a fire where we were hunting was slim. In that peaceful spot tucked out of the howling storm, the cup of tea and an O Henry Chocolate bar were enough to revive my spirits to wait out the snowstorm. When the storm lessened we then continued on hunting caribou for the remaining daylight hours.
I may not face whiteouts on foot all that often, and rarely while driving, but lately it seems I’ve faced a number of “whiteouts” in my life. Unexpected situations arise and suddenly my world is tossed upside down and it’s hard to orientate myself. The only thing I’m starting to learn is that whiteouts arise fast and then fade—rarely do they stay intense for long and never forever. During a whiteout I either need to stop and wait it out, or keep moving cautiously with something to guide me—something that won’t steer me wrong.
Circumstances can throw me into a tailspin. Situations can spin me around. People can toss me upside down. And my own senses can fail me. How do I keep going when I can’t see? Where can I turn? Who can I trust when everyone and everything lets me down? Where is safety? Where is peace?
In doing some homework for a Bible study, I ran across Ephesian 2:15
“ For he himself is our peace,”
I would have skipped over this little phrase without much thought, except the Bible study questions made me dig a little further.
The original language here for peace is shalom.
“For he himself is our shalom”
And what is that? What is Shalom? Hebrew for sure. A greeting? A farewell? A blessing?
All that and more, Shalom expressed fully means:
Safety and Security,
With no Deficiency,
And the absence of agitation or discord.
“For He HIMSELF is our Shalom.” (CJB)
When my world is whited out by turmoil and doubt and confusion, this is where I’ve learned to turn. And this is what I cling to: Jesus Christ is my Shalom.
It’s His promise to me—to those who believe and trust in Him. Peace. Shalom. It’s amazing how many verses in the Bible point out God promising shalom!
“What I am leaving with you is shalom — I am giving you my shalom. I don’t give the way the world gives. Don’t let yourselves be upset or frightened.” John 14:27 (CJB)
It’s a promise that becomes my eyes when I can no longer see, my ears when I can no longer hear. This promise is the truest of bearings when my world goes topsy-turvy.
“May God, the source of hope, fill you completely with joy and shalom as you continue trusting, so that by the power of the Ruach HaKodesh [Holy Spirit] you may overflow with hope.” Romans 15:13 (CJB)“So you’ll go out in joy, you’ll be led into a whole and complete life.” Isaiah 55:12 (MSG) “Then God’s shalom, passing all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with the Messiah Yeshua.” Philipians 4:7 (CJB)
For the sake of my family and friends, I say,
“Shalom be within you!”
Psalm 122:8 (CJB)