By Bill Mefford
I have never been much of a Spring person, or Summer for that matter. I like cold weather and I love the snow and overcast skies. I love Fall and football and leaves, and did I mention I like cold weather? It also does not help that I have wicked allergies that come out every Spring, but I admit this Spring in Virginia has been absolutely beautiful. I mean breathtaking. I am not sure if I am just noticing it for the first time or if this something out of the ordinary, but it sure has been fun to the trees and flowers coming alive.
The other day I was driving down a street not far from my house and the trees were just budding and some trees were in full purple bloom (pardon me for not knowing the names of the trees and plants - again, never been much of a Spring person). And I was just amazed at how beautiful everything was. So, these last couple of weeks I have actually volunteered - without anyone in my home having to ask me eight times - to work outside in the yard. Let me repeat, I volunteered to work outside in the yard! Stop the presses, alert the media, I am voluntarily working in my yard.
I honestly can’t explain it other than I have enjoyed being in nature.
Now, to many of you, working in the yard and admiring God’s good creation is hardly a new thing, but for me, this is like growing a third arm. It’s pretty big. It just feels right and I can say, in my own weird way, I feel like I am closer to God for doing so.
I always found it odd when people say they found God in nature. I just didn’t. Granted, I didn’t really work that hard and I would hardly call my very recent admiration of natural beauty to be an awakening of a contemplative spirit in me - I know me too well. I am activist. I learn by doing. Thus, my volunteering to work in the yard is more formative for me than sitting in solitude in nature.
But the changing of seasons is indeed miraculous. How the barrenness of winter gives way to the new life of Spring is something of a new revelation for me; not so much I hadn’t noticed it before cognitively. But rather, it is something I hadn’t reveled in previously. It hasn’t been something I admired or adored. But as I now do more than acknowledge it I of course reflect on the power of nature’s renewal in our lives individually and collectively.
Being past fifty years of age I am reminded that new things not only can happen in my life; they must. Indeed, there can be no Summer or Fall or Winter unless there is Spring! Likewise, I cannot allow myself to rut myself; stay in the same old lanes I have grown so comfortable in so that the comfort becomes a grave rather than the birthing of new life, new discoveries, new passions, new habits, new thoughts, new actions, new innovations. New. I want something new. I want to grow in new ways and try new things. Yeah, like actually working in the yard.
But newness is not just something for me as an individual. What a waste to keep the new births of Spring for myself! This newness is for the country and the world as a whole. While more and more countries revert back into nationalism and tribalism, there is also a competing global connectionalism that is taking hold (which is what is spurring the backward-looking reactions).
I see the horrific violence in Sri Lanka, perpetrated by a terrorists supposedly claiming allegiance to Islam (though condemned by an overwhelming majority of Muslims) directed towards Christians and Westerners. I see the rise of a Hindu nationalist party that seeks to dominate a formerly pluralist democracy in India through their elections this week. And of course, I see the racist and ignorant-based know-nothingism led and embraced by the dying yet alarmingly still angry Republican White Christian nationalist party. All of these movements seek to “purify” their societies, which is a kind way of saying they want to forcibly and violently conform those of us who occupy space with them to their rigid and narrow beliefs.
And this isn’t confined to the political realm. We are only two months past the final fundamentalist takeover of the United Methodist Church, which was entirely focused on “purifying” and forcibly conforming the beliefs and actions brought about by a small group of rigid extremists.
But this week coming out of Easter we should remember that not only does Spring make all things new - it requires the death of the old. Spring is not for the faint of heart. Spring gives new life and in doing so, we must reject the old. The old habits, thoughts, actions, allegiances must die. We must reject the old politics, the old racisms, the old hatreds, the old tribalisms. And we move forward embracing the new, not knowing what it will ultimately look like, but trusting that God is loving and sovereign, that God is merciful and just. And trusting that what God creates, God sustains, what God gives birth to, God nurtures and matures.
And thanks to God we can see so much of this in our own back yard.