Thursday, March 20, 2014

7 Lessons From Springtime

After what seems like a never ending winter of well-below freezing temperatures and record snowfalls, spring has finally arrived - leading me to reflect on all the lessons this glorious season brings with it each year. 
Spring always follows winter.
"For see, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone.The flowers appear on the earth..." (Song of Songs 2:11-12)  The Song of Songs poetically speaks to us of a truth that is easy to forget in the dead of winter: spring will come again. This principle does not solely pertain to the weather, but can be applied to all areas of our lives. Spring always follows winter. All of us experience seasons of suffering, darkness and pain in our lives. It is during those challenging times that the seasons that the Lord has created in nature remind us that the storms will cease, the sun will once again shine and the flowers will bloom. We have only to wait with patient trust.

"Hope springs eternal."
Alexander Pope's famous line "hope springs eternal" is never more powerfully illustrated in nature than in the picture of a spring crocus poking through the snow-covered ground. The image of new life muscling through obstacles in its path is a sign of hope in the resilience of living things. Most of us have encountered, at one point or another, someone whose life has been one of surmounting difficult, if not impossible challenges. Perhaps we are that person. For the person who struggles, hope is the virtue which drives them to rise above the day to day battles and continue to persevere.  This spring, let us ask the Lord to stir up hope in our hearts and the hearts of those who need it most.

                            --- 3 ---
Variety is to be celebrated.
For me, the temptation to envy the gifts and talents of others is one that I am constantly battling. Spring once again reminds me of the wise words of St. Therese of Lisieux on this matter: "...the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all flowers wanted to be a roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would be no longer be decked out with little wild flowers." (Story of a Soul) 

Take time to smell the roses.

On an early morning walk last spring, I looked up at a picture-perfect blue sky and back down again at my blue tee shirt - the color of which was labeled by the manufacturer as "blue sky."  My "blue sky" shirt paled in comparison to the vividness and depth of the blue sky above. I stopped and stood in awe. No one paints scenery quite the way the Lord does. The beauty of spring makes it the ideal season to get outdoors and admire the majesty and intricacy of God's creation. In the busyness of life in 21st century America, we don't always make time to stop, pause, and reflect on the world around us. We are missing something wonderful by not doing that. The tiny, perfect details of God's creation reveal to us something about God himself - his beauty, his goodness, his splendor and the meticulous way he cares for all he has created. This spring, don't just go out and smell the roses, stop and ponder every last detail of them and give thanks to God for them! 

Every rose has its thorn.
While we are on the subject of roses, each season brings with it is own thorns and spring is no exception. For me, the thorn in spring is the dreaded seasonal allergies which begin like clockwork around the first day of spring and persist until mid-summer. I have no words to inspire anyone who suffers through these pesky allergies other than to say there's more to offer up! 

Spring cleaning is a good thing. Really.
The words "spring cleaning" don't exactly cause me to jump up and down for joy. In spite of intensely disliking the process - I sure do look forward to the results of the annual spring cleaning. Closets neatly organized, winter coats and boots put away, windows scrubbed - these are the fruits of my efforts each spring. I am always shocked as to how much "stuff" I am able to accumulate in a single year. The effort of decluttering is eye-opening and freeing.  Spring cleaning for our soul can also be a good practice.  We can easily get into a rut in our relationship with the Lord leading our prayer to become routine and stale. Like our homes, our soul can accumulate a fair amount of junk and the process of cleaning it out, while not always fun, is extremely liberating and healing.  I recently found this Examination of Conscience posted by Father James Searby that has really helped me get to the heart of the matter this Lenten season and I look forward to some soul-cleaning this spring.

Spring reminds us of Resurrection. 
For all Christians, the celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord is the highlight of spring and the cornerstone of our faith. Through Jesus' life, death and resurrection we have been given the promise of eternal life and the resurrection of our own bodies. The early church apologist Minicius Felix beautifully describes the relationship between the season of spring and the resurrection of the body: "A body in the grave is like the trees in winter: They hide their sap under a deceptive dryness. Why are you in haste for it to revive and return, while yet the winter is raw? We must await even the spring of the body." (Octavius 34:11–12 [A.D. 226]) 

Thank you Lord for the gift of spring and all the ways that it points us to you! 

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