Yesterday the clumps of unremarkable leaves that line the side of our front walkway were suddenly sprinkled with periwinkle. Our Woodland Phlox had begun to flower. I am struck with how startled I was to see them again. Although I’d become tired of the plain brownish-green stumps of plants they had been for months now, it’s as if I had forgotten the beauty they were capable of.
Today, the flowers on top opened and there were even more pops of periwinkle sprinkled across the plant like pinky promises. Their modest but sure arrival was begging me to pledge to notice them when they fully bloom, and believe they were always on the way, even when I couldn’t see their reality or imagine them last month.
After the joy of the first snow of Winter early on last season, I spent months wishing for the end of it. After weeks of gray-skied, lip-cracking, static filled days, I became decidedly weary of Winter and waiting, quickly forgetting what Winter was working hard to bring about again.
When Spring finally spreads through our neighborhood, noticing is uncomplicated. The birds sing wildly in the now early morning light, and the Crabapple tree in our front yard lets loose a million white flower petals to the wind as if our streets were made for a wedding celebration instead of the everyday grind of commuters, yellow buses bringing hungry kids home, and mail trucks filled with bills and impersonal ads. It’s as if Spring has perhaps always been and exists on it’s own, unrelated to the long, mostly unseen work of Winter.
It’s not just the seasons. I feel this way about the character God is growing within me and my children when there are months without any evidence of it despite so much intentional work. I feel this way about longing for racial reconciliation within the church. I feel this way about the important relationships in my life that aren’t in the places I hope for them to be. I feel this way about my aging body when changes seem slow to show, despite work and desire to grow and become healthier and stronger.
The more I begin to recognize the way that what’s seen and unseen are two necessary parts of a whole thing, the more contented and convinced I become, no matter the season. The more I look beyond the surface of what is seen, the more I see the world around me, even the day to day mundane and the seemingly still unchanged, with hope and wonder. Click to tweet The more I surrender to the way that each of the seasons is irrevocably connected, the less I try to pull and pick them apart from one another, resisting their bond.
I often think about the way Jesus was prophetically described in Isaiah as someone who would be tender, lacking in physical beauty or majesty, melancholy, rejected and disliked. His family, friends and followers were asked to see beyond what was seen when he was living on Earth, from his humble birth to his death on the cross and everything he did in-between. His description seemed opposite of what anyone would ever expect while knowing who and what He truly was.
The memories of past Springs remind me that our little Phlox flowers won’t stay for long. The birds will finish their busy morning songs and our Crabapple tree will lose it’s snow-white flowers one by one. Most celebrations in life are short and sweet no matter how we hang on. The Phlox petals will fall back to the earth they rose from, leaving plain green plant leaves to stay throughout the rising heat of Summer. If I pay attention, I know I will be asked to remember every part of their imperative rhythms as purposeful; and if I listen closely to the voice that matters most, I will be wooed towards greater faith and sight until they rise again.