In our part of the world this is the time of year when many plants awaken from their sleep. I’m checking the asparagus every day to catch the first sprout. Seeds I planted in February are coming up as spinach, lettuce, turnips, and radishes. I’m watching the trees leap into life—flowering pears, cherry, apple, and—my favorite—redbud.
Knowing how much I love these trees, my husband bought three of them when we moved into this house over ten years ago. Yesterday, the buds I’d been watching suddenly opened in their annual show of color. The rest of the year, they’re not an unattractive tree, but they don’t stand out from the crowd either. But for two weeks in March/April, their clusters of tiny blossoms undergird the truth that is spring.
After blooming, the tree bears small heart-shaped leaves and forms seed pods. These pods dry out and turn brown, and some of them hang on through the winter into the next spring, coexisting on the same twig with the showy little buds.
I used to hate that the pods were still around in the spring. It didn’t seem right. I wanted beautiful signs of new life, not crunchy aged pods hanging on to the branches. I’ve come to think differently.
This is the way of all existence, isn’t it? Life and death, side-by-side. Death and life, hanging out together. It is the story of our days, and the story of faith.
Many of us will go to church on Easter to hear again the familiar words about resurrection. As humans, we all bear the essence of both life and death at the same time, in our bodies and souls. Unbearable loss sits beside deep joy. Hope lives with dread. Success and failure, heartache and contentment, health and illness, laughter and melancholy reside together in our deepest places.
The message of Easter is not that life leaves death behind forever. It is that life and death share an uneasy cohabitation, but Love is stronger, even than death . God’s love helps us hold on in our darkest hours and in our brightest ones. The darkness of death is always with us, but the beauty of life pulls us forward into some bright future that we have not yet envisioned, where Love reigns and overcomes hatred and darkness.
On Easter morning, women walked to the tomb carrying the spices of death, while it was still dark. They found the tomb empty, and would go on to learn that even the Christ of our faith would bear the marks of his own death into the world.
We do best when we don’t deny the daily struggle between death and life, but acknowledge the presence of both as we move forward into the brightness of Easter.
A wounded, yet living Christ. Life and death. Death and life.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2016