It’s Spring, Sort of
Spring typically conjures up images of robins, flowers and bright yellow forsythia blooms. That’s the way spring is supposed to be for most of us.
But, the reality of it here in New Hampshire is a bit different. Spring is mud season. We’re grateful for the warmer weather, but warm weather means that the snow starts to melt, and when the snow melts, mud takes its place. Spring is also when the signs announcing “Frost Heaves” appear, warning us to expect washboard roads ahead. Then, later, around Mothers’ Day, come the black flies.
Our lives can be like this. Our expectation of the way life should be often clashes with the way life really is. Pastors often enter ministry with an expectation of the way things ought to be, and often quickly discover that their expectations and reality are seemingly at odds. No one told them about their churches’ mud, frost heaves and black flies.
It’s spring! We can walk to the mail box and not worry about slipping on the ice. But, it’s spring, and the driveway is soggy and muddy, and there’s no crocus in sight. The church is the bride of Christ! Yet, the bride often seems sullen, moody and distracted.
Spring in northern New England is a season where we learn to manage our naive expectations about the way things should be, and learn to wait, patiently, for the spring of our expectations to arrive. Soon, the snow will have melted away, and the ground will dry out in the sun. The well-watered soil will begin to generate crocuses, daffodils, and snowdrops, intimating that it’s about time to prepare the garden for planting. Soon, the black flies will disappear just as mysteriously as they appeared.
Our expectation of a pleasant spring isn’t wrong, it really is spring despite what seems to be evidence to the contrary. The problem is, our expectations are impatient. We want spring, now! Pastors want to see the Kingdom come in their churches, now! We want what we want, now!
We forget that though we have little time and are always in a hurry, God never hurries, and God has all the time in the world, as 2 Peter reminds us: “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8).
The late Dallas Willard counseled, “Hurry is the enemy of spiritual life.” We can let our impatience for flowers blind us to the fact that it is indeed warmer out, despite black flies and frost heaves. We fail to feel the warm air on our skin because we’re ankle-deep in mud. More seriously, we fail to notice God’s comforting presence in life as it comes to us because we’re preoccupied with and distracted by our quest for spiritual goodies. We lose touch with God’s quiet presence in our lives in our quest for the pizzazz, excitement, and spiritual experiences that wild-eyed worship leaders seem to offer. We mistake excitement for newness of life and spiritual depth, both of which requiring patience.
Despite the mud and the sogginess, spring is here and the snow will be gone and the flowers will bloom. Despite a moody and distracted congregation, the Kingdom will come and all will be made right. Our time is not God’s time. Spring really is here, but it will take awhile for us to see it in its fullness. The Kingdom has come in Christ, but it will take awhile before we see him put things to rights.
So we plod through the mud, endure the bone-rattling frost heaves, and shoo away the black flies, and that’s OK. It’s spring. Winter’s ice is thawing. The mud slowly turns to garden soil, and the black flies disappear. The old self gives way to the new one.
It turns out, the signs of spring were all around us–the mud, the frost heaves, and the black flies–but we didn’t have eyes to see. The signs of spring were there all along. They weren’t the signs we wanted, but they were signs nonetheless.
And to what do these signs point? To the coming of crocuses, hyacinths, and snow drops, to robins and chipping sparrows. And, if we had but eyes to see, we could see God’s signs all over the place, even in the muck and mire, pointing us toward that for which we pray, “Your Kingdom, come!”