Early spring is an ambivalent time. Vestiges of winter can still appear – cold temperatures, icy streams, a late snowfall, bare trees, brown and seemingly lifeless fields. At the same time, signs of spring are here, too --- the sap is beginning to run, snow melt is causing rivers to swell, birds are belting out their courting melodies.
As much as we would like for spring to come quickly, nature will not be rushed. It is a model of patience. The flowers will bloom, the trees will leaf out, the frogs and turtles will pull themselves out of the muck where they have been hiding – but in their own time, in God’s time. In the meantime, we sit together in this in-between time, perhaps uncomfortably, but holding the promise of renewal and new life.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul aptly describes this time of waiting for Easter. He says that all of creation is “groaning in anticipation” of its renewal, its reconciliation (Romans 8:19). Groaning because there is suffering and pain and the cross with which to deal.
Buddhist philosopher and activist Joanna Macy believes there is real danger in skipping over pain and suffering and grief, not to mention guilt, particularly in reference to the unraveling health of the planet. The truth is that our highly industrialized culture has created extraordinary, perhaps irreparable, harm to our planet. And, those least responsible for causing it are the ones who are suffering first and foremost – the poor and the vulnerable.
Macy says that “(u)ntil we find ways of acknowledging and integrating that level of anguished awareness, we repress it; and with that repression we are drained of the energy we need for action and clear thinking.”
So how do we break through? How do we develop the courage to see, in this in-between time?
While it might seem simplistic, how about beginning with a walk in the woods? Or on the beach? Or across the desert? Here, surrounded by this great cloud of witnesses to God’s creative activity, our armor is stripped away, and we become vulnerable to God, and to other. We engage with each of God’s creatures – human and non-human – no longer, as theologian Martin Buber said, as an “it” but rather as a “thou.” And importantly, essentially, here are hearts are cracked open, to compassion and empathy – the first steps to transforming our lives into those that are more aligned with God’s desires for wholeness and reconciliation of all creation.
And something else might happen here as well. As we open ourselves, we might see an old Sycamore – gnarled and twisted by its many challenges, but still clinging to the riverbank – alive and thriving. We might see a tiny ant, dragging a leaf, many times its size and weight, to its nest. We might view a turtle emerging groggily from its winter sleep at the bottom of the pond, finding food and nourishment. We might find inspiration and sustenance and hope for a renewed and reconciled creation. In other words, we might find Easter.