“Be still, and know that I am God”: Trusting the Spring Blossoms of Life Will Come
Pruning fruit trees in my backyard is not my favorite job. A week ago it had to be done. The ground was still mostly frozen, but there were signs of spring: crocus peeking through the snow, woodpeckers drumming on a distant tree, and plump knobs on the end of branches. While not yet buds, those swelling nodes signaled that blossoms would appear soon—in the next couple of weeks at most. Those bumps on branches are the surest sign, to me, that winter is finally taking its last breaths. It took the whole day but after the pruning, freshly cut branches of apricot, plum, pear, and nectarine filled jars around my house. I brought the branches inside with the hope that I could trick the buds into blooming early. If I succeeded I would get an early fulfillment of springtime’s promise: new life bursting with beauty.
There were days this past winter, though, when I thought spring would never come. Days of this feeling came when I couldn’t imagine how the world could ever be anything but bitter and hard. Those days didn’t happen in the gripping sub-zero chill of January nights. They occurred after a warm spell in late February. For almost a week the weather had been mild and sunny. The snow had begun to melt. The breeze warmed my face and children in the neighborhood played outside. The laughter and sunshine reminded me of warm days ahead and life felt pleasant and full of hope. But that winter warming gave way to yet another round of terrible weather: two weeks of pummeling snow storms, icy sidewalks, and frosted-over cars needing to be scraped. Those were dreary days. I stumbled around feeling like the world would be a frozen, colorless place forever. Ironically these weeks of discouraging frigid temperatures came not in the deepest darkest days of winter, but in the last days of February and the first days of March. They came when spring was right around the corner.
FROZEN EARTH AND FAITH
Belief that springtime would come in those disheartening days felt like real faith. A courageous faith. A faith not so different than the faith required to believe in rebirth itself—to believe that this life is not the end.
As a Christian, spring is the ultimate symbol of my hope, that this life isn’t the end—that there is something more after death, of a literal resurrection. This hope of life after death with God and my family is precious to me, but like spring itself, it is still a hope I have to work to cultivate.
Most of the time my faith is bright, cheerful, confident, and vigorous. It brings me great joy and purpose and fills my soul in a way that words simply cannot adequately express. But I do have moments, like an unexpected cold snap, when gloom and doubt creep in. I know belief in God and in life after death can be hard for some. I have many friends who want to believe that life exists after death, but can’t seem to move past physical evidences to the contrary. I don’t know why it is so hard in certain moments to believe, or why for some it is difficult to believe at all. My own belief in God, in spirituality, in the sacred, have at moments given way to voices that assert such beliefs are foolhardy, parochial, naive, and merely “the opiate of the masses.” At times, though I have hope that there is life after death, belief is hard. Sometimes I doubt.
TRUSTING BUDS TO BLOSSOM
Recently, in a winter of such doubts, I came across a quote by David Brooks, New York Times columnist:
“Wisdom starts with epistemological modesty. The world is immeasurably complex and the private stock of reason is small. We are generally not capable of understanding the complex web of causes that drive events. We are not even capable of grasping the unconscious depths of our own minds.”
I reflected on this quote for a while. It reminded me that I don’t even understand myself completely, let alone the complexities of the universe. And that just because I don’t understand myself or the world around me or faith or God or the next life, it doesn’t mean I, it, they don’t exist.
I was reminded that the human mind—my human mind—is often subject to myopic thinking, to imagining based on what has been seen. But such mortal, limited vision misses the beauty of things just beyond the surface. Like allium stems growing under the soil even before the first green shoots can be seen breaking through the earth, there is truth hidden beyond the surface of my own understanding.
Though finite and limited, however, the human mind is also miraculous. It is capable of awe-inspiring appreciation and awareness of life even when it does not comprehend fully the forces that made that life.
MIRACLES IN BLOOM
It didn’t take long for the branches on my kitchen counter to blossom. At first the tips of the swollen nodes were brown and crusty. They looked dead. I was worried that they had dried out during the pruning process. But quickly the nodes began to swell. The outer leaves of buds formed and the tips took on a different hue. First they showed green. Then they actually turned pink! The range of color change was astonishing. Each day I examined the buds carefully for the minute but utterly mind-boggling changes taking place. Soon the pink-green scale leaves cracked and lush white petals erupted. Where there had only been brown rough husks a few days prior there were now perfectly symmetrical five-petaled flowers. The transformation was not only life-affirming but faith-affirming.
Religious leader, Lawrence Corbridge, recently stated:
“More phenomenal than resurrection is birth. The greater wonder is not that life, having once existed, could come again but that it ever exists at all. More amazing than raising the dead is that we live at all. A silent heart that beats again is not nearly as amazing as the heart that beats within your breast right now.”
To my mind, the new life that each spring brings to a dark, frozen world echoes the new life that awaits all humanity after death. Resurrection is no more miraculous than life itself. The proof that we will live again is seen in every blossom on every tree. That truth is confirmed to me not only by what I can see but what I cannot see. It is also confirmed by what I feel in my soul, when in moments of quiet contemplation of the world around me I hear the words, “Be still and know that I am God”.
Lana is interested in exploring topics of faith. She is an avid outdoor enthusiast and feels a great connection to God when enjoying the natural world. A writer, runner, wife, and of mother of four children, she is learning everyday how to be more grateful. You can connect with Lana on Instagram @lanarbailey.
Faith Perspectives Editor