Signs of Renewal by Tysie Mitchell

All around us these April days we see signs of renewal. 

At no other time, in our Canadian calendar, are we so aware of the colours of new life, than after five months of a landscape of white, black, brown and grey. Now, lawns are greening. A blue haze on last year’s dead grass, becomes a carpet of tiny blue scilla. Daffodils nod their lovely yellow heads atop new growth. The sap is running up the maples and, on all the trees, tiny buds are appearing. The squirrels chase each other, and the mating call of birdsong abounds.  We look out on the day and we see Spring everywhere.

The inescapable exuberance of Spring never fails to stop me and to invite me to ponder on how this beauty comes to be, how this renewal happens.

For the plants it starts in the soil; soil of varied material and situation: loam, clay, sand, deep, thin, gravelly. There are plants that will thrive in all of them.  We feel especially charmed by the little sprout rooted in a seemingly impossible crack in the sidewalk.

Then there is water, delivering nutrients and removing toxins, released from its frozen hiatus, melting from snow, falling as rain, as torrential as gushing rivers, and as mild as morning dew.

Add sunlight: direct, dappled, bending around a north facing wall, something green will work with these light alternatives. 

And voila! there you have it, the renewal of life; a gift to us each spring. It seems like a simple recipe, only three ingredients, and the proportions don’t even need to be consistent.  But take away any one of the ingredients and the plants will not survive.

We look out into Spring and we marvel at an annual ritual which feels new every year, no matter how many years we have seen it.  But where do we fit into this ritual of Spring?

Our experience does not follow patterns according to the calendar; our joys, our growth, our sadnesses, our illnesses, indeed even our births and our deaths are not bounded by the terms of the seasons. 

So where does our renewal come from? Where is our prescription for abundant life? I like to think that it is found, in the Christian tradition, in 1st Corinthians 13/13. Faith, hope, and love.

 

Love – such a small word to cover so many feelings. The ancient Greeks had 28 different words for “love”. One of my favourites is “agape”: to love expecting nothing in return. It is easy to love those near and dear to us but what about those daily encounters with folks we don’t even know? On a daily walk in covid time the cheery “hello, lovely day” from a complete stranger behind a mask, the chat with a neighbour from the other side of the street, the sound of children playing in the yard next door, can make a difference between a gloomy day and a bright one. Love is the soil of our soul, ready to nurture all that will grow in our hearts.

Love

Hope – we use it constantly, probably more often than we realize, to look forward to something better. “I hope it will rain tomorrow; the garden needs it”. “I hope I can cuddle my new grandchild by summer”. “I hope we can have Christmas in the sanctuary”. Hope keeps our love flowing when that which we love is physically out of reach. Just as all of nature thrives with water, so we thrive with hope. 

Hope

And then there is “faith”.

 Faith – as individual as each one of us. For me faith is not belief. Belief is an intellectual choice – I choose to believe or not believe. Faith comes from a place much deeper inside. It defies explanation, but for me the closest I can get is “Interconnectedness”, a connection with all of humanity, oneness with the natural world, rocks, trees, stars and water, and especially connection with that which is unknown and unknowable. 

Perhaps it is faith that is at the heart of renewal.  At those times that winter seems interminable, at those times when the journey of grief is still a long road ahead, at those times when our inner world is grey despite the blossoming of spring outside, it is faith that re-assures us that our personal renewal will come again in its own time.  In faith we trust that the love and hope within us, and around us, will see us through to our springtime.

Faith.

Each time I enter the sanctuary, be it in person or virtually, and see our beautiful banners so lovingly stitched by women of our congregation I am reminded of our Christian prescription for renewal. For the flowers, soil, water and sun. For humanity.  Love, hope, and faith. So be it.