Dormancy… and the Courage for New Life

It felt cold this morning when I woke up.  It was one of those mornings… you know, the ones that make you want to wrap yourself back in your comforter to ward against the cold.  I could feel the sluggishness of my body from the drop in core temperature, and my head felt stuffy.  Something suspiciously like sunlight was seeping its way between the blinds, but even that rare sight wasn’t enough to make me want to get out of bed.  The delicious coziness of a warm bed… that’s what I wanted more of.  After all, it is my Sabbath day, and resting is part of Sabbath.

Eventually, though, I got up the courage… and sometimes it really does feel like courage… to brave the cold and seize face the day.  I really was looking forward to the day.  I had a lunch meeting, one that my friend and I had been talking about and planning on having since late last year, and we were finally going to hang out.

So, I got out and joined the other denizens of Decatur, walking and enjoying the sunny, but slightly chilly, spring weather we were having.  There were little toddlers, literally toddling and trying out their newfound balance, holding on to the security of a parent’s hand.  There were arm-in-arm couples strolling and window-shopping near the Square.  There were groups of friends laughing and sharing life while waiting outside a popular diner.  There was life.  And there was a tree.

I don’t know if I would have noticed it had I not been thinking about the blog, about Sabbath, about Lent.  Something about writing this blog has made me more mindful about the world around me.  Maybe it slows me down, makes me more open to awe.

I saw the tree, just when I started wondering when the trees would try to bloom again, when they would risk budding again in spite of the up-and-down, unpredictable winter/spring weather we’ve had this year.  I saw the tree, the one with the green buds pushing out, the one surrounded by the leaveless and the brown-leaved, the one that “took the risk” to brave the potential cold.

In his book Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives, Wayne Muller talks about the rhythm of nature:

All life requires a rhythm of rest. . .
There is a rhythm in the way day dissolves into night, and night into morning. There is a rhythm as the active growth of spring and summer is quieted by the necessary dormancy of fall and winter. There is a tidal rhythm, a deep, eternal conversation between the land and the great sea.

The activity of spring and summer fades in the dormancy of fall and winter, and the dormancy of fall and winter blooms into the activity of spring and summer.  Day to night, and night to day, activity to rest, and rest to activity.  Dormancy is never an end in itself. Sabbath is never an end in itself. It is to gather strength for the active time, for day and for spring and summer.

But sometimes, it seems easier and more comfortable to stay in the dormancy, in the time of preparation, to stay leaveless or brown-leaved.  Facing a new day, the cold, the unknown, the unpredictable takes courage even when there is great promise in the day and in the year ahead.  It takes great courage even when there is a promise of new life.

The journey through Lent reminds us that before there is new life, there is dormancy and death.  But Jesus, the one who inexorably walks toward his death and calls us to take up our cross, also calls us, those who are baptized and incorporated into his Body, to new life with him.  Dormancy is never an end in itself.  It is a time of preparation.  It’s just that sometimes, following Jesus into new life feels like it takes more courage than following him into death, because what that new day, that new life entails is unknown.

The tree stands as a reminder that Easter and new life are coming, and that sometimes it takes great courage to bloom into that new life, but also that there is great beauty and abundance in that new life if we would only but follow.

So this Lent, this is my prayer for me, for particular churches, for the PC(USA), for all who follow Christ at this particular time: may we be courageous enough, not just to follow Christ into death and dormancy, but also to follow him into the unknown of a new and abundant life.

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