Ice, Dam!

by Joanie Butman

Who in the Northeast isn’t ready for winter to be over? Enough already. My husband and I awoke last week to a rainstorm over my computer. He then spent six hours removing the most recent snowfall from our roofs while I mopped up the mess inside. There were years when he had me dangling out windows tethered to a hose that I swear no one was holding on the other end. I handed in my resignation shortly thereafter. I am now the inside man of the building maintenance department of Bob & Co. – my nickname for my husband and myself.

This year we thought we’d outsmart the weather by installing roof heaters in the problematic spots. That strategy might have actually succeeded if the contractor had finished the installation in time, but as these things usually go, he missed his window of opportunity and was waylaid by ongoing snowfall and frigid temperatures. When he finally finished, we breathed a sigh of relief as we saw the forecast for yet another snowstorm. Our comfort was short lived when we realized the heaters weren’t functioning. 

We’ve had our share of ice dams over the years and every time we think we’ve conquered them, they pop up elsewhere just like that Whack-a-Mole arcade game. It occurred to me this week that ice dams are eerily similar to sin in lots of ways. It doesn’t just affect you, it tends to spill over everything in your life causing varying degrees of damage – some fixable, others less so.

The secret to handling both is prevention and/or early intervention. It takes constant diligence to prevent them from forming in the first place. As hard as we try though, we will only get so far on our own because everyone has those problem areas that given the right circumstances produce both ice dams and sin. Snow removal and heat wires will work on your roof issues, but the spiritual equivalent would be fellowship and Bible study. Even so, all have to be activated and in working order to be effective on your roof or your heart.

My brother emailed me a series of photos illustrating his unique solution to ice dams – a blowtorch. They came with the following captions:

The Problem Ice Dams

The Solution Flame Thrower

Accident Waiting to Happen

Phew! Escaped Serious Injury!

He should have included this caveat, “DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!” You might be wondering why anyone would own a blowtorch. Well, interestingly, it is to smooth out the surface of the ice skating pond in his yard, a portable Zamboni of sorts.

I bring up ice dams for two reasons. First, many can relate this winter; but even if you are fortunate enough to avoid the roof kind, there isn’t anyone who can’t relate to the spiritual kind. In addition, they are a useful metaphor in attempting to clarify the purpose of Lent, which many of my friends not raised Catholic find confusing and contrary to the concept of grace. In my mind, it‘s a thawing out season. Lenten practices aren’t observed to impress God with our sacrifices and good works or to earn His love and approval. It’s a time to reflect on anything that might be affecting our relationship with God. Prayers, fasting and good works are simply methods to achieve clarity in that regard.

During these six weeks, many people choose to invite Jesus into their hearts to reveal where their souls need melting and what bumps and cracks need to be smoothed out by the warmth of His love – a spiritual Zamboni. Ideally, it’s an exercise that shouldn’t be seasonal. Sadly though, if you’re like me, you don’t tend to concentrate on ice dams during warm weather, which is when I should have had the roof heating cables installed. Nor do I spend a lot of time focusing on spiritual ice dams when all is going well.

Despite the effectiveness of my brother’s approach, I don’t plan on buying a blowtorch any time soon because I wouldn’t trust it in the hands of anyone in the building maintenance department of Bob & Co. However, when I choose to put myself in God’s loving hands, I trust that Christ will turn up just the right amount of heat to smooth out my bumps and cracks and break through any sin that has built up preventing me from living the abundant life He has planned for me.


P.S. Speaking of thawing out, I will be in Florida for the next two weeks with my family gathering lots of material for when I return at the end of the month - my own version of March Madness.