Whenever I hear of snow, many things customarily come to mind. Among them are many happy memories with my friends and family. Down through the years, we have romped and stomped and sledded about, and we have also carved snow angels and built snowmen and then gone inside to enjoy a great big bowl of home-made strawberry flavored snow ice cream. For these reasons, if for no other, then I say: “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!”
These days, I also tend to reflect on the rather well-known phenomenon of the uniqueness of individual snowflakes. You see, for some time, scientists have known that even though a given snowfall might contain trillions upon trillions of individual snowflakes, no two of them are ever exactly alike. And one of the first individuals to study this marvelous aspect of nature was a man named Wilson Bentley.
A few years back, best-selling author and widely read blogger, Mark Batterson, wrote a best-selling book titled Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God (published in Colorado Springs, Colorado by Multnomah Press, 2008). On pages 15 and 16, while addressing the importance of following one’s God-ordained passions, he relates the story of Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley and how he lived and died. He writes:
I want to die the same way Wilson Bentley died.
Wilson grew up on a farm in Jericho, Vermont, and as a young boy he developed a fascination with snowflakes. Obsession might be a better word for it. Most people go indoors during snowstorms. Not Wilson. He would run outside when the flakes started falling, catch them on black velvet, look at them under a microscope, and take photographs of them before they melted. His first photomicrograph of a snowflake was taken on January 15, 1885.
He then quotes Wilson directly:
“Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.”
Before concluding with these thoughts:
The first known photographer of snowflakes, Wilson pursued his passion for more than fifty years. He amassed a collection of 5,381 photographs that was published in his magnum opus, titled Snow Crystals. And then he died a fitting death - a death that symbolized and epitomized his life. Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley contracted pneumonia while walking six miles through a severe snowstorm and died on December 23, 1931.
And that is how I figured out how I want to die. No, I don't want to die from pneumonia. But I do want to die doing what I love. I am determined to pursue God-ordained passions until the day I die. Life is too precious to settle for anything less.
Mark is exactly right. Not only are individual snowflakes unique. So are we as individual human beings. Each of us is uniquely made in the image of Almighty God, and each of us is uniquely endowed by our Creator with a unique set of gifts and passions. And it behooves each of us to give our lives to the pursuit of these God-given unique passions for all we are worth. For that is one of the best ways we have of bringing glory to the supremely unique One Who not only created us, but Who also redeemed us!
Why not add this to your list of things to think about the next time the snowflakes start to fall? In the long run, it will give you something far more rewarding than even a great big bowl full of strawberry flavored snow ice cream!
Mark Batterson, Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Multnomah Press, 2008), pp. 15 and 16.
Mark is a gifted communicator who serves as the lead pastor of National Community Church in our nation’s capital, Washington, DC. Meeting in movie theaters and at metro stops throughout the city, as well as in a church-owned coffee house near Union Station, NCC is widely recognized as one of the most innovative churches in the country. Mark lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Lora, and their three children. His web site is www.markbatterson.com.
On page 50 of her book titled Pursue the Intentional Life (Colorado Springs, Colorado: NavPress, 2013), Navigators affiliated Bible Teacher, Jean Fleming, also speaks of her admiration for Wilson Bentley:
When I picture God's rejoicing over his people with singing, I think of Snowflake Bentley. Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley, a New England farmer born in 1865, couldn't get enough of snowflakes. For forty years, he ran around in the snow, raucously joyful, catching snowflakes on chilled slides and photographing them, seeking to capture for others the beauty he saw in those one-of-a-kind masterpieces of frozen crystals. Over his lifetime, he photographed more than five thousand individual snowflakes. His notes were effusive: "No. 785 is so rarely beautiful." He wrote of the "feast of [their] beauty." As I imagine Snowflake careening in the snow, giddy with joy, I marvel with the psalmist, "LORD, what are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them? They are like a breath; their days are like a fleeting shadow" (Psalm 144:3-4). I'm like a vanishing, vaporous breath, and God cares for me.