It was pathetic – but also kind of sweet, like an ugly puppy. There we were, staring at the cold dirt, two signs of spring – a smatter of purple crocuses and two next door neighbors talking to each other. Really, this is Cape Cod. It draws people who can’t run any farther away from the rest of the world. We’re okay with social distance. But there we were, huddled over a small patch of dirt that bordered our property line, transfixed with goofy grins as the sun set and the damp chill began to wrap its icy fingers around us. Spring in New England, especially the coast, is more symbolic than substance.
It’s always seemed fair to me that Easter arrives in the midst of this not-so-attractive time of year. I know other places in the country enjoy lilies and bonnets and picnics in the park, but here an easter egg hunt must be fast, like most folks hope their church service is. When I was a girl, it meant I had to stay in a dress way too long. Somehow the cross was buried beneath the hard ground. “He is risen!” the priest would exclaim. From what? I was curious. It sounded like a hat trick. Now you see him, now you don’t. The cross was etched across hot cross buns and forgotten. The connection was broken.
In the place where He was crucified there was a garden. John 19:41
Amy Carmichael wrote: “This is my Easter word for you. You will find your garden very near to the place where you will be crucified.” Then this –
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.2 Corinthians 4:7-10
A coworker asked me to tell her about Jesus last week. As we sat on her couch cradling our coffee mugs, I said something like this:
There is nothing on earth to compare to the joy, the peace, the complete undeserved and immeasurable love of God. Then we get heaven!
But first you have to die.
Alone. This is not a big selling point.
In the place…there was a garden.
In that very place where we die there is good soil. I have planted seeds of forgiveness, small seeds of faith, sprinkled seeds of grace. Then waited…
Three days must’ve seemed like a lifetime to Jesus’ disciples. Time enough to doubt, to turn back, to go fishing. Three days of darkness – enough time to die.
“Do you love me?” Jesus asked Peter three times, after he had risen. Love has more gravity after you die. It’s a robust, rugged God-love that waters and tends the garden. Just when you think nothing at all could ever grow, the craziest things spring up. Restoration, healing, joy unspeakable and full of glory. And the God-love never runs out, as long as we keep sowing the seed, rain or shine.
It is hope when all seems hopeless. That’s a promise.
Take up your cross daily and follow me – Jesus (Luke 9:23)
Daily? That’s also a hard selling point. Right after that he tells the crowd that if you really want to find your life, (Ah! Now he’s talking!) you must lose it. (What?)
Some days I don’t want to pick up my cross. I am too busy living my best life now, with its perks and petty offenses. I want things my way. It seems so…right. But the garden suffers horribly. Nothing can grow except bit fat weeds.
When we look at the cross this Easter, let’s not just remember Jesus and His death. We must carry His death, His humility, His suffering before we can carry His life and resurrection power. His treasure in these ordinary jars of clay. Amazing.
Bob (my neighbor) and I went back into our houses, leaving the brave little crocuses to huddle above the barren earth as the night covered them in frost. And they were there this morning, waving to me as I pulled out of the driveway, an almost extravagant display of color against a gray and barren landscape. That’s my God, I thought as I drove off. Hope. And it’s all worth waiting for.
I AM THEY: Christ Be Magnified