A Season of New Life
These past few weeks, I have been troubled by some events happening in the world, most of them disturbing, unsettling, disconcerting, aggravating. You know the usual—violence, war, terrorism, natural disasters, hate crimes, abuse, discrimination. It’s sad that we can now refer to these evils as ‘the usual.’ And yet they’ve been around a while, a very long while. It’s just that we have now gotten accustomed to the 24-hour news cycle and the global nature of social media, and we will hear just about everything about everybody at some point in time. And if you’re one who worries a lot, you either think you’re responsible in some fashion for some of, if not all of, what’s been going on, or you are convinced you have to do something to fix some of, if not all of, it. Of course, that’s an overreaction. There will always be things we reasonably have to worry about—like meeting our most basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, safety and security, physical comfort, the immediate foreseeable future—the next meal, the next couple of hours, the week ahead, filing taxes, graduation, the November elections, auto insurance, health insurance, homeowner’s insurance, qualifying for a college loan, the next doctor’s visit, retirement. But there are also a lot of things we really shouldn’t have to worry about at all. So I’m not going to name any of them, lest I make you worry.
Now I have never in all my life claimed to possess a strong faith. Sometimes in the face of bad news I am not always comfortable suggesting that God is near. I believe he is, but finding the best moment to share that conviction is not always easy. And when someone else offers reassurances of God’s concern and care, I might find myself grappling with fear and uncertainty. Where is God to be found in tragedy and suffering? How can anyone be sure everything will be all right? Am I the only one who wants to know why terrible things have to happen? Who can I point a finger at and blame? It doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone that we have all entertained fears and doubts like these, although most have never voiced them out loud. But it is part of our nature to want to know why, to find answers, to quell our fears, to resolve our doubts. Even science recognizes the human drive to discover truth, that there is no such thing as a wrong question, and that the answers are out there somewhere.
Quite wonderfully, there is also a growing movement of those who succeed in getting away from the busyness of their own lives, and return to quiet and nature, to the wilderness, to far-away places that wi-fi and the 4G network cannot reach, which is only truly possible if you actually turn your electronic devices off. It’s an occasion of renewal and getting reenergized, because you know you will eventually have to return to your busy life. It’s the rationale behind the weekend, the Sabbath rest … unless you work for the church. But you get the picture. We all need time for a breather, time to put up our feet, and read a good book, and enjoy dinner with friends. It is exactly such experiences that help focus our lives so we can figure out who we are, and determine where we want to go.
But every so often, life gets in the way of life. We sometimes think things like accidents and tragedies and natural calamities are anomalies—irregularities that have no place in God’s design. But they are as natural as birth and death, as natural as babies learning to walk, toddlers learning to say NO, teenagers giving their parents a hard time, young adults embracing their role in the world and making mature lifelong commitments, politicians running for public office, the discovery of new cures for diseases, the invention of new technology. Old buildings are eventually torn down, and new buildings take their place. World powers will rise and fall. Celebrities will come and go. Generations will flourish and decline. It is just old life getting out of the way of new life. Either we grab the handlebars tight for fear of the next heart-stopping plunge, or we enjoy the ride. We will still sing the blues on occasion. But life bursts forth anew with spring each year, and robins will build new nests, and the dogwood will bloom once again, and the broken will be made whole, and sinners will be reconciled with God.
Jesus stood in the midst of his disciples, and greeted them, “Peace be with you.” They were both fearful and overjoyed at the sight of him. They had seen him hanging on a cross just a few days ago. But they also believed it was really him standing there before them. Then he showed them his hands and side. They examined the marks of his wounds, and touched what the whips and the nails left behind. And in light of all that evidence, they came to faith. So we can understand where Thomas was coming from. Having missed Jesus’ visit, he needed proof. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger into the nailmarks, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Incontrovertible and tangible evidence would so put an end to doubt and unbelief. And yet Jesus does not grant the privilege to all. It could have been so easy. “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
It makes more sense to be skeptical sometimes, that even in the face of powerful signs we would hold on to that last shred of doubt because we want to understand and everything has to make sense. But coming to faith is not about understanding and making sense of things. Coming to faith is about putting trust in Someone greater than ourselves. It’s about coming to the conviction of some amazing truth without tangible evidence necessarily. So evidence can be someone’s track record, someone’s pattern of behavior, which in a way will eventually have an element of predictability. But that’s only after you’ve come to know such a pattern. But that’s the rub. You don’t know until you know. And that first leap of faith is the hardest one. Still, the only guarantee is the conviction that Light will dispel the darkness, and Love will overcome hate, and Life will put an end to death. We see the pattern in the natural world around us. Dawn follows night. Spring follows winter. There is always opportunity for a new beginning. It is what keeps us moving forward.
Last fall I sent for three plant seedlings in the mail. I planted them in these big pots. They took root quickly, put out new buds and leaves, and seemed to thrive. When the first frost hit, I had to take them indoors. And shortly thereafter, they began to wilt and drop their leaves. Now I am a confessed natural herbicide, so I resigned myself to the inevitable. Once again, I have seen my hopes dashed. So I put the pots out on the back porch after the last leaf fell, thinking maybe I can try again in the summer. Last Friday when I returned from Easter break, I noticed new growth on what I presumed were dead plants. A new season of life has begun. I’m just glad I didn’t clean out the pots too soon.
Where is God calling you to new life? What wonderful signs are staring you in the face while you still refuse to surrender your doubts? God extends to us a new season of life. “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Rolo B Castillo © 2016