The Spirituality of Spring
I was headed in a frenzy down the bypass, on my way to an appointment, as usual. The drear of another long stretch of winter weighed upon my heart, heavy as the snow and ice on the ground. Many days, weeks even, had passed in which I was holed in my house, unable to venture outside due to the hazardous road and walking conditions. My spirit fell.
The day had been particularly frustrating, as I recounted in my mind how life had become one strand of movement from one activity to another. It seemed as if the clock had me shackled. I lived by it, and it taunted me every time I had to leave the house in order to arrive somewhere on time. Winter had not been the typical slow and steady type of season this year. Nothing had stopped moving.
Yet as I drove, the deciduous trees surrounding me on both sides still and bare, I noticed something unusual. A bird of prey spread its wings directly in front of my field of vision. At first, I assumed it was the usual red-tailed hawk, scouting for its midday meal. But the wingspan was wider, the flight more majestic of this bird. Then, I saw its white head and yellow beak. A bald eagle!
It seemed this bird was meant for me. I felt the Holy Spirit stirring within. No one else had seen this beautiful, rare creature of the sky. No one could have possibly captured the clear view I had been granted. The skies opened in a burst of sunlit rays, and my heart soared alongside the eagle.
I didn’t know what it all meant, as I seldom do anymore. But I knew God was handing me a gift in that moment. I felt His strength encase my heart, and peace settled like the snow in feral fields that see no activity. How could this be? I wondered as I parked the van. Normally, I would rush inside the building to ensure I had made the appointment in a timely fashion. But that day I knew a few, maybe ten, extra seconds to linger and bask in what strange and unexpected grace unfolded would not affect my punctuality.
Grace is a mysterious thing. Or rather, not a thing at all, but a shift in oneself and one’s perspective due to divine intervention. God seems to sweep in when we most need Him, yet least expect intervention, and carry us upon His wings for a time. I thought of the verse in Isaiah 40:31 that reads, “They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on eagle’s wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.”
Could the eagle have been a herald that God was carrying me upon His wings, even in my weariness? Could it be that He was renewing my strength of soul in that very instant, when I felt lost and abandoned and ignored most of all?
It was in those few seconds of sitting in the van, still and silent, when I looked at the ground. Small sprigs of green were peeking above the mud where snow slowly melted into the deep earth.
Spring. Signs of life at long last!
It happens every year, the transition from winter to spring. I expect it, yet it still catches me off guard when those first buds appear on the silver maples, or the crocus spring forth overnight, or the daffodils bloom in a few days. Shortly thereafter, I saw the season’s first robin. The Canada geese had flown back north, and the songbirds resumed their symphony during my daily morning walk.
Growth is a movement, a progression. It is necessary that every human must shed what is unnecessary, frivolous, and sinful. We die, in a sense, these little deaths every time we mortify our senses, sacrifice our desires for the good of another, or deny ourselves some slight pleasure as an offering of prayer. We are like the plants and flowers and trees that mourn their surrenders to death each autumn, shedding their leaves one after another in a long goodbye to what once was.
We are not unlike the changing seasons. We cannot remain stagnant, or we will never find flourishing again. It is easy to succumb to the tempests of life, to find ourselves swaying and even breaking or snapping violently when the winds of change attempt to ruin us. If we are frail and small, like a sapling, we might yield to our fickle feelings. But if we have roots embedded in rich soil, we will bend. We might lose a bit of ourselves, as branches fall off trees in the storms. But we will not perish.
We will endure.
Spring gives us fresh hope. It is a dawn of sorts. I notice the green of the trees is more vibrant than the mature and deeper colors of summer. Bright yellows and pinks and lavenders abound. Fragrant lilacs permeate our backyard. It seems that every day I find another part of nature that has, once again, year after year, found a way to rebound – even to become more abundant than ever before.
I find in my heart to long for the strength of the eagle, the endurance of the little sapling, the generosity of the lilac. “Look at the birds of the sky,” we hear in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6. “See how the wildflowers grow.” Neither overcomplicates things as I do each time to look at the clock – one minute passes, then another – but they simply find their way. Somehow, I must do the same.
Today, I realize it doesn’t take much for me to grow. I need space. I need rest. Plenty of water. A little food. When I face the sun, I am warmed by its radiance. God gives me these things, all of them. He provides for me, even as I resist every point of surrender. I fret. I push back. But still He beckons me to let go of my expectations, my aspirations, my plans. Every day they are altered, yet I still end up disappointed.
If I wish to “bear fruit that will remain,” to be faithful and never falter from my place on God’s great grapevine, I must take heed from the lessons of nature that bestow on me a quiet beauty and a powerful lesson. I am not unlike the creatures and plants, in the sense that I, too, cycle through seasons of desolation and wait for seasons of growth and abundance.
And every time I encounter a drought in my spiritual life, if I am faithful and persist in the good end, to the end, I will find myself one day bearing good fruit ten, twenty, or a hundredfold.