The last week or so has been tough at points: walking with family through places of illness and infirmity; being involved in making decisions that resulted in students who had been planning to graduate next month not being able to do so; discovering that I owe more money on my income taxes than I had anticipated; and walking through a misunderstanding that felt like it placed my living situation in jeopardy. Sometimes life just seems to wear us down. I start to wonder if things are ever going to get better…easier.
And that is what I was wondering one recent morning as I was standing at my kitchen sink. As I looked out the window I saw that it was another gray and gloomy morning. Then I noticed the apricot tree that is in the yard. Just a couple of days ago I had remarked to my neighbor how barren the tree was. Some trees in the neighborhood are in full bloom, and most at least have some green leaves. But that apricot tree looked completely desolate. But on that morning, lo and behold, it had a number of blossoms on it…small, lovely, fragile, white blossoms. All of a sudden there was a big grin on my face.
As I thought about it, I realized that though the tree had looked stark and barren, a lot had been going on that was unseen. Life and fruitfulness were there, though imperceptible. The processes that were necessary for new life were not visible to the naked eye, but were inexorably and purposefully going on below the surface.
Throughout this season of Lent, the focus of the church is on death—the darkness, anguish, and inevitability of death. During the days between Jesus’ death and resurrection, there was a lot of weeping, confusion, fear, disappointment, and dashed hopes among Jesus’ followers. It looked like all their expectations of Jesus had come to naught. Outward appearances indicated that all was lost. And yet…
All was not lost! Unimaginably amazing and astonishingly extraordinary developments were occurring that Jesus’ followers could not see. If they had understood Jesus’ teachings on his death and resurrection, they might not have felt so hopeless. They might have realized that death is necessary before new life can appear.
In the church, the culmination of Lent is Resurrection Sunday. Out of death and dormancy comes resurrection life. And because Christ conquered death, believers, through baptism, also pass from death into life. Romans 6:4 tells us, “We were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
On that seemingly barren apricot tree in my yard, I saw a glorious picture of newness of life. I remembered that the tough times of discouragement and disappointment are elements of the process that God is accomplishing deep in the hidden places of my heart to form new life in me—to allow the old, lifeless parts of my heart to be released into his healing hands, where they can be transformed and raised to life. They can become places of beauty and joy, blossoming forth into newness of life…just like those delicate flowers on the apricot tree.
May Resurrection Sunday be a time of great celebration of the myriad ways the glory of the Father is transforming your life and making you into a vessel of his marvelous love and grace that is full to overflowing!
Questions for Reflection:
- Are there any places in your life where you feel worn down and discouraged?
- What would it look like to release those places to the healing hand of the Father who is able to bring newness of life out of death and decay?
- Will you trust him to perform that transforming work in the secret places of your heart according to his timetable?