The ground is so cold. The stiff blades of grass sheathed in ice crunch hard underfoot. Even the once squishy mud is frozen solid. The wind claws my cheeks. The sun shines coldly, making the trees cast stark shadows on the ground. It is eerily quiet. The chattering birds, rustling squirrels, and nibbling rabbits have hidden themselves against the chill. The flowers are dormant, tucked into their beds of frozen earth, alive but not actively growing.
It is as if everything were in a deep sleep, hibernating.
It is the bleak midwinter, when spring feels like a far off dream.
Sometimes it feels like my soul is in hibernation mode too. Alive, but not growing. Frozen in the dark. Unseen, buried underground.
Flourishing growth seems like a far off dream.
Perhaps an unexpected circumstance blows around me. A medical condition halts my health. Or I struggle against the dark of emotional and mental depression.
But sometimes it is in these hibernation places where the growth comes. Quietly at first, unperceived by others or ourselves. It’s in the dying that growth begins to happen. The seed skin splits and a sprout begins to shoot upward. The cocoon is torn and a green Luna moth struggles free. The tomb door is rolled away leaving behind the wrappings of death.
Jesus himself tells us that we can expect the dark times. The times when all seems dead, ragged, and stripped away. He spoke of his own life and death and those of his followers in these terms:
“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.” (The Message, John 12:24)
Nature shows us the way. How death can become life. How a burial can produce growth. It may feel hard, cold, and barren at first. We may feel unlovely and unseen by others. We may feel like growth isn’t happening.
But if we entrust ourselves to the patient care of the Master Gardener, we can rest in his hands which plant, water, and prune.
As Lilias Trotter wrote in her famous book Parables of the Cross, “Take the very hardest thing in your life – the place of difficulty, outward or inward, and expect God to triumph gloriously in that very spot. Just there He can bring your soul into blossom.”
Because it really is true: spring is coming.