My husband noticed it first. As we hiked in the North Georgia mountainside in early spring, he pointed out new life springing up everywhere.
We had stopped to gaze at the waterfall gurgling into a lazy stream below. He pointed to a tree that was broken off at the top, maybe struck by lightning or snapped off by the wind. It looked like it had long since died, yet there were new sprouts all over the trunk, emerging from what had once seemed dead. He said he loved the way nature had a way of renewing itself like that.
I looked at the new green on that once dormant tree and I saw a glimpse of the hope the followers of Christ must have felt the day they discovered that the stone had been rolled away.
With the resurrection in my thoughts, Easter celebrations close at hand, my mind turned to the time Jesus spent with those who loved Him in the days following His return to life. I imagine the wonder they must have felt, hearts so full and light, bursting in their chests. I wonder if they also feared though. Did they keep touching him, afraid of when he would leave again?
God has a way of bringing life from what appears to be the end.
So often new hope requires death first.
My oldest child, taking in all the wonder of the surrounding forest, asked us why so many fallen trees lay over the river. Her dad stopped by a tree that was almost completely decomposed at the base. To show her how it had broken down over time into rich soil, he scooped up the moist, black earth in his hand. A musky smell of disturbed earth filled the air as he told her it was supposed to be this way, that it was how the forest stayed alive.
What had been a life-giving tree, providing oxygen, shade, and shelter was no more. In death nature had done its work and the tree now gave life in a different way. It had fulfilled its purpose in its life and also in its death.
I love new life, the spring, the hope and feeling of renewal. Fresh starts and new beginnings are awe-inspiring.
It’s the death part, which has to come first, that doesn’t come so easily. I tend to hold onto dreams or seasons of my life, not willing to let die that which God requires me to let go of to bring new life.
I thought I learned this essential lesson of nature years ago when we packed up our life to follow the dream of living in the Middle East. Six months later we returned to the States due to some unexpected family events. We believed with all our hearts it was the right thing to do but it was also a death blow to dreams we held dear.
Even as our first child was born and then our second, new life literally being held in my arms, I carried the dead weight of a season God had asked me to leave years before.
It took me years to realize that what I had experienced, even the death of the dream, could all become fresh soil to cultivate a new start if I just let go.
New dreams have sprung to life in my heart now. But even they mean more good-byes, more little and big deaths. I still cling to the old, afraid of the pain. I don’t know if this is a lesson I will ever fully grasp.
In the forest and in our lives, the death remains. That tree in the forest is still scarred from the trauma it endured. The hands that carried the cross still bear the scars of nails. My heart still aches with the thought of goodbye. But new life emerges in the midst of those deaths.
A fresh green sprout.
A resurrected Lord.
A new dream.