I Here something stubborn comes, Dislodging the earth crumbs And making crusty rubble. It comes up bending double And looks like a green staple. It could be seedling maple, Or artichoke, or bean; That remains to be seen.
II Forced to make choice of ends, The stalk in time unbends, Shakes off the seedcase, heaves Aloft, and spreads two leaves Which still display no sure And special signature. Toothless and fat, they keep The oval form of sleep.
III This plant would like to grow And yet be embryo; Increase, and yet escape The doom of taking shape; Be vaguely vast, and climb To the tip end of time With all of space to fill, Like boundless Yggdrasill That has the stars for fruit. But something at the root More urgent than that urge Bids two true leaves emerge, And now the plant, resigned To being self-defined Before it can commerce With the great universe, Takes aim at all the sky And starts to ramify. ~Richard Wilbur “Seed Leaves”
Now the green blade rises from the buried grain, Wheat that in the dark earth many years has lain; Love lives again, that with the dead has been: Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.
When our hearts are saddened, grieving or in pain, By Your touch You call us back to life again; Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been: Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green. ~John Crum from The Oxford Book of Carols
Over the last several weeks, roots have become shoots and their green blades have risen chaotically, uneven and awkward like a bad haircut. And like a bad haircut, a few days of further growth will make all the difference — renewal will cover all the bare earth, breaking through crusty rubble to reach up, heaving and healing, aiming for the sky.
There is nothing more hopeful than the barren made fruitful, the ugly made beautiful, the devastated restored, the dead made alive.
The fields of our broken hearts recover; love is come again.
The air was soft, the ground still cold. In the dull pasture where I strolled Was something I could not believe. Dead grass appeared to slide and heave, Though still too frozen-flat to stir, And rocks to twitch and all to blur. What was this rippling of the land? Was matter getting out of hand And making free with natural law, I stopped and blinked, and then I saw A fact as eerie as a dream. There was a subtle flood of steam Moving upon the face of things. It came from standing pools and springs And what of snow was still around; It came of winter’s giving ground So that the freeze was coming out, As when a set mind, blessed by doubt, Relaxes into mother-wit. Flowers, I said, will come of it. ~Richard Wilbur “April 5, 1974”
As the ground softens with spring, so do I. Somehow the solid winter freeze was comforting as nothing appeared to change and stayed static, so did I, remaining stolid and fixed, resisting doubt and uncertainty.
But now, with light and warmth, the fixed is flexing, steaming in its labor, and so must I find blessing in giving ground and giving birth to what will follow. Flowers will come of it.
This World is not Conclusion. A Species stands beyond – Invisible, as Music – But positive, as Sound – It beckons, and it baffles – Philosophy, don’t know – And through a Riddle, at the last – Sagacity, must go – To guess it, puzzles scholars – To gain it, Men have borne Contempt of Generations And Crucifixion, shown – Faith slips – and laughs, and rallies – Blushes, if any see – Plucks at a twig of Evidence – And asks a Vane, the way – Much Gesture, from the Pulpit – Strong Hallelujahs roll – Narcotics cannot still the Tooth That nibbles at the soul – ~Emily Dickinson
Doubt can feel like the bare branches of winter – plenty of bleak bark, and nothing that feels alive or real or even meaningful.
Yet spring ushers in such profound intervention that doubt is ushered out with little ceremony. What was mere potential is now bud and bloom. What was mere twig is now glorious.
These last few days of winter are a reawakening of nature’s rebirthing rhythms, with increased activity of all the wild creatures and birds around us, and most importantly, God’s renewal of our weary wintery hearts.
Some late winter and early spring mornings still are pitch black with blustering winds and rain, looking and feeling like the bleakest of December mornings about to plunge into the death spiral of winter all over again.
No self-respecting God would birth Himself into a dawn as dark as night.
But this God would.
He labors in our bleakest of hearts for good reason. We are unformed and unready to meet Him in the light, clinging as we do to our dark ways and thoughts. Though we soon celebrate the rebirth of springtime, it is just so much talk until we accept the change of being transformed ourselves.
Though soon the birds will be singing their hearts out and the frogs chorusing in the warming ponds, we, His people, are silenced as He prepares us and prepares Himself for birth within us. The labor pains are His, not ours; we become awed witnesses to His first and last breath when He makes all things, including us, new again.
The world and its creatures, including us, is reborn — even where dark reigned before, even where it is bleakest, especially inside our healing wintery hearts.
What word informs the world, and moves the worm along in his blind tunnel?
What secret purple wisdom tells the iris edges to unfold in frills? What juiced and emerald thrill
urges the sap until the bud resolves its tight riddle? What irresistible command
unfurls this cloud above this greening hill, or one more wave — its spreading foam and foil —
across the flats of sand? What minor thrust of energy issues up from humus in a froth
of ferns? Delicate as a laser, it filigrees the snow, the stars. Listen close — What silver sound
thaws winter into spring? Speaks clamor into singing? Gives love for loneliness? It is this
un-terrestrial pulse, deep as heaven, that folds you in its tingling embrace, gongs in your echo heart. ~Luci Shaw “What Secret Purple Wisdom” from The Green Earth: Poems of Creation ~
The road that took Him from wooden manger to wooden cross is one we walk in joy and terror through His Word.
He is given to us; He gives Himself to bring joy to our miserable and dark existence;
He dies for us; He rises to give us eternal hope of salvation; He calls us by name and we recognize Him.
This mystery is too much for too many unwilling to accept that such sacrifice is possible. His sacrifice and many parts of His body continue to be oppressed and persecuted every day. We are blind-hearted to the possibility that this Spirit that cannot be measured, touched, weighed or tracked can stir and overwhelm darkness. We prefer the safety of remaining tight in the bud, hid in the little room of our hearts rather than risk the joy and terror of full blossom and fruitfulness.
Lord, give us grace in our blindness, having given us Yourself. Prepare us for embracing your mystery.
Prepare us for joy. Prepare us to bloom.
What is the crying at Jordan? Who hears, O God, the prophecy? Dark is the season, dark our hearts and shut to mystery.
Who then shall stir in this darkness prepare for joy in the winter night? Mortal in darkness we lie down, blind-hearted, seeing no light.
Lord, give us grace to awake us, to see the branch that begins to bloom; in great humility is hid all heaven in a little room.
Now comes the day of salvation, in joy and terror the Word is born! God gives himself into our lives; Oh, let salvation dawn! ~Carol Christopher Drake