Spring comes to me this year with a quality of intensity unlike any spring I have seen before. In Colorado the season has barely started but its certain presence is everywhere evident. Tiny new shoots of leaves, of grasses, of spring wheat in the fields, and early season flowers are peeking out everywhere. Our lawn begins to breathe green again.
I begin to breathe again, too.
This past winter has been one of the hardest seasons I’ve ever lived through, not so much because of weather but because of circumstances. The circumstances my husband Peter and I faced brought with them an emotional climate of profound darkness the likes of which I have not seen in decades. The questions we struggled with were less about why and more about whether we would survive. Everything became very elemental. Vision became overshadowed with shadow. There were days that I doubted we would survive and doubted whether it would be worth it even if we did.
Perhaps this past winter was like that for you, too.
Spring never does come overnight. It comes as an unfolding, slow and sometimes ragged. But come it most truly and certainly does. It comes so persistently we cannot prevent it or even slow it. Like dawn comes certainly after night, no matter how long or dark, Spring comes after winter. Emergence after suffering is a slow and sometimes ragged process, but it is not not our ending point. Spring is our grand reminder that how are things are now — “always winter and never Christmas!” — is not going to be the way they always are. There is a Day coming when the great thaw and breaking of the curse will unfold around us, just like spring itself.
Like seeds that fall into the soil, decay in the darkness, and emerge later into a new form for an exalted purpose, we also fall into the soil of hardship and in the darkness there are broken and decay, later to emerge in a new form. It’s easy to write about that as an analogy; it is much harder and more costly to live inside that paradigm. It is sometimes easy to talk light-heartedly about rebirth and resurrection as though we are on familiar terms with wonder and mystery. Such talk is either out of ignorance or it is whistling in the dark against our deep fears.
The only path to resurrection is through death.
Earlier this year my friend Christina wrote me something that has been lingering in my thoughts about cultivating, planting, surrendering, and trusting through the process of a seed dying to be made new. She wrote,
bring rains to our drought-stricken lives
So those who planted their crops in despair
will shout hurrahs at the harvest,
So those who went off with heavy hearts
will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.”
“1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
2 To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
3 To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
4 Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins,
They will raise up the former devastations;
And they will repair the ruined cities,
The desolations of many generations.”
It is the oaks of righteousness that become Placemakers and restorers. This is why we cultivate.
The image of Rosa glauca is (c) Lancia E. Smith and used with glad permission for The Cultivating Project.
Lancia E. Smith is an author, photographer, teacher, and business owner. A grateful lover of the Triune God, Lancia is the Founder & Executive Director of Cultivating & The Cultivating Project. She has served in executive management, church leadership, boards, and Art & Faith organizations over 30 years. She & her husband Peter have parented 7 children, & have a flock of beloved grandchildren. Lancia loves garden and website design, beautiful typography, road trips, being read aloud to by Peter, & cherishes every book she ever read by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and George MacDonald.