This is my Father's world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker's praise.
This is my Father's world: He shines in all that's fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.

- Maltbie D. Babcock

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Living in Spring

The woods and trails were full of voices today, even though I was the only human in sight. If you ignored the distant hum of traffic, you could hear trickling water, a near cacophony of birdsong, and in the distance something else -- was it? -- yes, definitely a great chorus of spring peepers, no doubt rejoicing in being freed early from their lengthy slumber. And walking through a stand of pines, I noticed that even they were talking. I don't mean the familiar sigh of a breeze passing through needles, but a quiet yet distinct clicking sound. I have no idea what it was -- perhaps pine cones cracking open? All of this is to say that there is no mistaking it; spring is definitely here again.

This year is not typical. The first signs of spring were slightly less noticeable due to the mild winter we had experienced. In the past two weeks, unusually warm temperatures for March have caused spring to come on like an avalanche of greening and flowering plants. The arrival of spring after a harsh winter is generally more subtle and poignant: the first day of thaw reveals snowdrops already prepared to flower; the year's first returning robin huddles in a tree looking bewildered by a March snowstorm; clearing away dried leaves and old plant material reveals hyacinths, tulips, and daffodils already pushing their greens up through the earth. Spring usually forces us to await it with longing and comes on slowly...but come it does, no matter how harsh the winter, like the fulfillment of a promise.

For those of us who see life in such terms, the promise of spring is reflected in the spiritual world. I see the arrival of spring as a confirmation that always, even after the coldest, darkest days of our lives, a spiritual, spring-like renewal comes if we're open to it. I'm sure that is why Easter is celebrated in the spring. When we are experiencing a winter season in our lives, it can seem interminable. Yet gradually, we start to notice that there's a little more light each day -- perhaps we catch ourselves smiling or even laughing out loud at things that previously had failed to amuse us. One day we notice that we can hear about a great opportunity happening to someone else and not think, "But what about me?" We begin to recognize bits of beauty in the world where we had previously seen only dirt-crusted snowbanks. A chapter of scripture seems not empty or admonishing, but feels like what it is - a personal love letter from the Author. Eventually we look around and realize that we are once again living in a season of joy.

Some months ago, I was experiencing a winter of the soul. I didn't think that anyone else was aware or impacted; I kept throwing on my scarf and galoshes and trudging through my personal snowbanks. I scarcely realized that an unhealthy focus on self and an ungrateful spirit had me in a deep freeze, and it was affecting my work and my relationships. Yet even in that period of apparent dormancy, unseen forces were at work beneath the cold, snowy crust. Various influences begin to align themselves to shake me awake, admonish me, comfort me, encourage me, feed me -- until one day I was able to open my eyes fully and see that the snow had melted away and new growth was pushing its way through the softened soil into sunlight.

Good Friday can seem like a bleak day, but it thrums with a hidden energy. If you listen closely, it whispers "Hang on, hang on -- Easter is almost here!"

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