It’s that time of year again; trees a-flowering, flowers a-budding, buds a-popping, all giving way to the greening of leaves in canopies across the land.
Well, across the temperate land.
Here in Central Florida, everything stays green all year round. The palms, shrubs, and grasses wave happily in the constant breezes. Even cacti thrive in the sandy soil. What’s missing here is color, specifically, the diversity of color.
So, my green-thumbed husband ripped out all the scraggly (but green, to be sure) shrubs, replacing them with vibrantly colored flowers. What a happy difference! On St. Patrick’s day, he brought home “Paddy,” who wound merrily through a trellis that would allow her to climb up and along the bare side of our house.
Isn’t she lovely? Full of pastel pink flowers with stems intertwined, clambering up the wooden scaffolding?
But this is Paddy today. (My apologies to my friend Patty, in whose honor we named this beautiful new planting.)
She has dropped nearly all of her flowers. As I water her, and yes, whisper bits of encouragement, I search longingly for some new stems, new buds, or a bit of greening – just some signs of new life! But they are hard to find.
Paddy is suffering from transplant shock, my husband tells me. Common in plants that are uprooted and transported to new accommodations, they need time to get used to things and decide whether their new soil will be conducive to their needs. Life looks a bit bleak in the mean time.
Ironic, because given the size and plenty of the greenery here, I thought everything flourished. It seemed an everlasting spring. Apparently, I was wrong. The warm winter months which give way to warmer spring days are only the prelude to the hot, dry summer. If your roots don’t find good soil and plentiful water now, there’s not much hope for your future.
I guess that’s why the change of seasons are so important: a time to plant, a time to grow, a time to harvest, and a time to lay fallow. The seasons graciously allow us to send down our roots, grow up our stems, show forth our flowers and … and… and… to withdraw to gather our resources in times of hardship and prepare for the seasons that lay ahead.
Transplant shock, the product of our uprooting and the stark presentation of a new way of life, is jarring. Make no mistake: the buds on those trees which are now timidly unfurling and introducing themselves to new branches at new heights are the bravest of the brave. What courage it takes to strike out into the spring, come what may.
I am hoping Paddy will make it if I keep giving her some tender loving care. We have a certain camaraderie, she and I. Neither of us does transition very well, but our Maker knows this about us. We may not always show well in spring training; that’s our time to grow.
Why, of why, do I hold on
to what is beyond my control,
to what is too heavy to bear,
to what burdens and saps my strength?
Because I have become accustomed to it.
It has become my way.
Your ways are not our ways,
Nor our thoughts your thoughts.
Deny yourself, you say,
Not so you suffer, but so your heart is free, you say,
and with joy we will bear your cross together.
Why do we live crucified lives when the risen life is alive and well?
Until that which we write, we think, we pray, comes to life, we are noisy gongs and clanging cymbals. This is the pre-Easter world, the pre-Easter us.
Oh, the list. Thank God, the baby Jesus was born into a smelly stable. At least He knew what He was getting himself into, or at least He recognized the stench when he got here.
But the Easter life is meant to have a different fragrance. Gone is the stench of death. Up rises the sweet smell of life. It doesn’t febreeze the smell to muffle it or fool our noses by covering it, it actually replaces it by rebirthing it. It is a coming alive “in me.” It’s an inhabitation, not just a living with, or walking beside. It’s not even a co-habitation. Life has sprung from that which was clearly dying, what others have seen and testified to as completely dead. The mortician has actually signed off on it.
That, of course, is impossible. So, are we foolish to believe it?
Yet, each day I have words, thoughts, prayers in me that are meant to be acted upon. Ideas designed to take root. Connections clearly intended to be made. And when I am true to these, they take on a life of their own. This is not my doing. Others tell me this. Am I foolish to believe this? believe them? That something could be incarnated in me? A life that is not mine and yet it is?
Impossible. Yet, I hear (and so I write): Make a place for me, just as I have gone to make a place for you. What if the place Jesus said he was “going to make for me” was actually in me?
Is there a place “in me” that would welcome my Lord? Have I prepared the guest room? Made the beds, changed the sheets, tidied up the newspapers? Have I scrubbed the floors, painted the shutters, patched the wall paper, vacuumed the… Heck, I’d better get busy. Maybe a decorator.
No, redecoration would be fruitless and a waste of time, energy and resources. Christ doesn’t come with the white glove test to see if I pass muster. He’s not that kind of commander. He comes to set up a base of operations. He seeks outposts where his commands are followed without hesitation or pause. Not because we fear His power or rank but because we defer to it. Our compliance is a place of usefulness, of actualization.
This is a real place in Easter people. Where the Kingdom has come, the knock answered, the door opened, and new life has been welcomed and told to make itself at home. Oh, what a hum and whir I hear from that place.
What is written there is life-giving.
What is thought there is laid in place.
What is prayed there is and was and ever will be.
But what is imagined there…Oh, the plans he has for us; to prosper us and give us a future. Where better to do all of this than within us? Am I foolish to believe that the place He left to prepare was that very place?