Friday, April 8, 2011

Frozen to Death? Maybe Not!

Seasons linger in our valley.  The cool but gentle weather of fall can last past Christmas.  Winters tend to be gray and foggy but with mild temperatures.  Spring begins to show itself by late February.  Just the same, we had a day or two of very deep freeze last fall.  Plants had not yet entered their winter dormancy.  Sap still flowing through them froze solid.  It was enough to kill some of them.  Roses and laurels were especially hard hit. All over town they are being dug up and tossed onto rubbish piles. 
Our friend Don, a landscape designer, came over to look at ours a couple of weeks ago, and they looked bad.  “These three are dead,” he said, “and they have to go.”  “But look here at all the rest; see down at the base where green shoots are barely visible; they will survive.  Cut them way back, gently care for them, and they will be OK.”
I wonder how often we see all the signs of spiritual death in those around us?  Fellow humans whose hearts have been frozen solid by the coldness of life, often a coldness experienced in church, an arctic wind that chills the soul blowing out of the mouths of pastors and teachers.  How often do we figuratively dig them up and toss them on rubbish piles destined for Gehenna, or maybe the Kidron Valley?  How many pastors and church leaders there are who say they are looking for signs of spiritual renewal, but all they can see is spiritual death.  It’s all around them, and it’s all they ever talk about. 
Why do we find it so difficult to look closer and see the barely visible green shoots of nascent faith emerging from roots that have endured the cold and refused to die?  They are small, tender and vulnerable, but they are there.  Digging around my dead hydrangeas, Don pointed to the all but invisible signs of new life.  “Prune these dead branches all the way down to the ground.  These new shoots will take their place.  They won’t bloom this year, but next year they will.”  


In a couple of weeks we will celebrate the drama of the Resurrection.  We ought not to forget that this same Jesus Christ never failed to see, nurture and strengthen even the barest signs of spiritual life in those he met.  To him, and in his presence, no one was ever dead.  “I am life,” he said.  As bearers of his continued presence, however imperfectly we bear it, no one should should ever be judged dead by us.  We are not agents of death.  We are agents of life who must be especially attentive to the barely visible and fragile signs of new life trying to grow where death had claimed its false victory.  Maybe some really are dead.  That’s not our call to make.  We do not have the competency to do it. 

2 comments:

Dianna Woolley said...

"we are agents of life" - such a great reminding phrase. I like this post very much!

Anonymous said...

Very good essay, CP, and very relevant to this time and place after a bad and discouraging winter! (By the way, I still face ridicule for my half-humorous denial of "global warming", not that I really dispute those scientific measurements, but that I am putting our actual, felt experience of freezing and unseasonable cold in both Europe and North America, even in the southern states, ahead of the theory.) Dr B