Easter Sunday 2018
For the first 21 years of my life, I lived in Southern California, and I never really understood or lived through four true seasons. While, yes, some deciduous trees did lose their leaves in the winter, the grass was always green, flowers bloomed year-round, and some sort of greenery was always growing. The landscape was always vibrant and beautiful, and I thought I was going to really miss it when I left.
When I moved to Reno, I had no idea that living in a place with four distinct seasons would add so much depth to my experience of life. There was this one little bush in the front yard of our first house in Reno. We had several trees too, but for some reason I paid a lot of attention to this one particular bush. My first winter here, I watched it change colors in the Fall, then lose it’s leaves, and in the middle of winter I remember thinking – that thing is dead. Really dead. There’s NO WAY that thing will ever show signs of life again. There’s no hope. We’re going to have to pull it out and plant something else in that spot, for sure.
I forgot about it for a few weeks. And then one day, I walked up to our front door and that little bush had GREEN LEAVES. It was alive!! It was amazing!! I wanted to jump up onto our rooftop and announce this joyful news of life to everyone in the neighborhood. And when I reflect back on why I was so happy, I am struck by how deeply that little bush SURPRISED me. Surprised me with life when all I expected was death. Surprised me with hope when all I expected was loss.
I can’t help but wonder if God gave us seasons – Spring especially – to remind us that he is an expert at transformation and surprises. And to give us physical proof that year after year, and all throughout our lives, he brings forth life from death. Beauty from the barren. New hope from what appears to be nothing.
The closer I grow in my relationship with Jesus, the more I am surprised by the ways he brings new life to our world. And the more I reflect on that new life, the more confident I am that we have to accept a constant state of change in order to grow into the people we were made to be. The only thing meant to be unchanging is God’s love for us and our love for each other. Everything else needs to move, change and grow, in order to bring meaning and renewal to our lives. Life is a cycle of letting go and discovering more. Giving up ourselves to find more of who we are.
When Mary Magdalene visited Jesus’ tomb early Sunday morning, she was so stuck in her grief and so attached to his death, that she couldn’t even recognize him. He had to call her by name to shock her into realizing that what she was looking for was right in front of her. When she opened her eyes to a new way of understanding life and Jesus, she saw that his death was not an end, but that it led to a new beginning. That his love never left her. That his love never leaves us. And that he remains with us now, and will be with us forever.
Now THAT is something to celebrate.