April 22: The cruelty of the spiritual spring
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“April is the cruelest month,” T. S. Eliot wrote. This is certainly true in Northern Indiana where the promise of spring is often packed in freezing rain and blasts of cold wind. A few weeks ago a serendipitously warm day coaxed tulip leaves from the ground. I itched to work in the garden. But when I finally found an hour to spare, wintry temperatures had returned. I put my Crocs back in the closet and stepped back into boots. If I hadn’t already lived through many a Northern Indiana spring, I would have given up hope by now of ever seeing new leaves and flowers. Yet even in this chill, daffodils have emerged. They trust the nourishing soil, sense the changing temperatures and increased sunlight enough to put out their early blooms. It is time.
Psalm 118 reminds us that we are planted and rooted in the soil of God’s nourishing love. When life’s difficulties surround us, when the day is dark with rain, when unexpected storms lash with fury, it may feel like God has abandoned us. This is the difficult part of a spiritual spring that tries our patience, our faith. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus called out from the cross. By taking on a human body, experiencing the worst kind of betrayal and misunderstanding, Jesus shows us that no form of human suffering is beyond God’s knowledge. Thus even as we remember on Good Friday the astonishing compassion of Christ – to suffer with us – we have also been rehearsing the songs for Easter Sunday, gathering treats for the children’s Easter baskets, living our lives in the light of the Resurrection and sharing that light with others.
As I write this, cold rain is pelting the windows on a gloomy morning. A few weeks from now, perhaps even when you are reading this, the blooms of spring will be opening in warmer air. Perhaps we will have forgotten, temporarily, that cold and wet are also a vital part of spring. Yet how else would the hard husks of the perennial seeds buried deep in the sustaining soil crack open – like our hearts – without a season of alternating bouts of chill and thawing? The reservoir of God’s love, the compassion of Christ’s suffering, are always present when we remember God is with us. “Into your hands I commend my spirit,” Jesus said in his final moments, taking refuge in the Lord. As he embodied God’s love, Jesus became the “cornerstone” that persists beneath the rain and winds, sun and heat, outlasting our hopes and fears. Let us give thanks to the Lord whose love endures forever.
14The Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. 15There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the Lord does valiantly; 16the right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.” 17I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord. 18The Lord has punished me severely, but he did not give me over to death. 19Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. 20This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. 21I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. 22The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 23This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.