Winter Light / by Sarah Schwartz

If my friends and I are headed somewhere that requires using the freeway, I'm usually not allowed to drive.

You see, in my home state of Oregon, there are only a handful of places where the speed limit gets up to 65mph, with most freeways maxing out at 55mph. In addition, I grew up in a rural area where my biggest traffic concern was a country highway where two lanes merged at 45mph.

I'm told that I still have too much Mayberry in me to get us where we need to go in an acceptable amount of time.

But this Sunday morning, it was just me on the freeway, headed to south Orange County to meet a friend. The beautiful thing about January in Southern California is that the 75 degrees might trick you into thinking it's summer, but the winter light is of the magical variety that makes it feel like late afternoon all day long.

I offer some of my most honest prayers while alone in the car---it's one of the few places where my mind becomes still enough to cut through the temptation of performance or pretense, and simply offer myself, just as I am, to Jesus.

So this morning, the sky a piercing perfect blue all around me, I told God how confused and pissed and frustrated I was with the week prior, what with an old wound showing up on my doorstep in the most curious and complicated fashion. A wound that's half healed and half ignored, stuffed down where memories go to die, in the hopes that it would eventually disappear.

Why this, why now, why at all? I asked, needing to be angry more than I was expecting an answer.

And as I merged from the 5-S to the 55-S, a thought landed square in my chest, as delicate as a feather settling to the ground, but as sure as the concrete beneath my tires.

Maybe it's to heal the pieces you were sure would never get better.

Master wordsmith that I am, I responded aloud,


I am chronically under expectant of God, it would seem.

Passing familiar billboards and exit signs, I combed through the various times, places and ways God has stirred the waters of my life in such a way that I couldn't hide from my hurts or fears. The moments I was sure he'd abandoned me, when he was actually leading me to a place where his grace could enter, and heal me in ways I didn't know I needed, or believe to be possible.

A line from a favorite poem came to mind.

"...learning the daring invasive care of God, who is on time always when looking backwards up from the ashes..."

Invasive, like heart surgery. The tearing open of your chest in the hopes of making something right again.

Daring, because it's the only thing that just might be crazy enough to work.

I took my exit, and several deep breaths, soaking in my last few minutes of solitude, grateful for the mysterious presence of the Spirit that sometimes shows up in winter light on California freeways.