‘Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said, "Bother!" and "O blow!" and also "Hang spring-cleaning!" and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously…’
The opening chapter of Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows perfectly captures how I feel on a fresh spring day. There’s something so alluring, so carefree about the first days after a long, cold winter. The relief of the warmer temperature, tempered by a cool breeze, the scent of new growth, the chirrup of chiff-chaffs, swallows and house martins and the cheeriness of daffodils and crocuses all combine to make me want to throw down my metaphorical brush and recklessly head out into the sunshine.
A spring day holds the promise of better things to come. It’s a sign that summer is on the way. And it’s there to be a reminder of God’s promise of resurrection and new life to come. Our lives go through the same cycle – the first shoots of spring, maturing into the summertime, fading into a colourful autumn and finally withering into winter. But what we see around us reminds us that it is a cycle – that we may go into winter but there will be another spring! God will bring about the resurrection and those who sleep in Christ will rise.
For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15 v 22). The same message is there in the hibernation of animals through the winter – they ‘die’ and remain dormant until winter is over, when they come back to life. It’s even there in the orbit of the earth around the sun – day follows night just as life follows death. It’s interesting to note that night always comes before day in Genesis 1 (the evening and the morning were the first day) and this follows through to the Jewish calendar, where the start of a day is dusk, not midnight. God is telling us that life will follow death just as light follows dark.
We’re also shown how far our current state is from what we will become. Again, it’s designed into the natural world to help us understand. We see it in seeds - what we sow in the ground bears no relation to the plant that eventually grows. The seed is just the embryo of the plant to come. In the same way, when we die, our natural body is but a shadow of the glorious body to come (1 Corinthians 15 v 35-58). We’re also given the picture of metamorphosis. Like a beautiful butterfly appears unconnected to the caterpillar it came from, so the resurrected state is far beyond the current natural state. But we have to go through the cocoon first.
The Greek word for metamorphosis is used in Romans 12 v2 where we are told to be ‘transformed (metamorphosed) by the renewing of your mind’. The process of this transformation starts now with our minds – no good just waiting for the resurrection. We need a spirit of divine discontent and longing to give us that sense of urgency and hope that leads to immediate action.
So let’s listen to the call from up above. When the warmer temperatures, bird song and blossom coax you out of your hibernation, sniff the air and savour the signs of new life all around you and the inherent promise of better things to come – and make up your mind to change!