Spring comes too slowly to Northern Colorado.
I’m still not used to the lingering brown landscape and blustery winds that buffet our wood fence and wrestle with the American flag struggling to stay secure on our front porch flagpole. Back “home” In Oklahoma, the landscape is greening up. Daffodil and tulips litter yards and gardens as if casually tossed by the Supreme Gardener. My hometown is green and daffodil yellow and tulip red. There is still no color in my new hometown. I keep waiting and watching for the bulbs—so carefully placed by my husband in the fall—to show a little green. Nothing yet, but I’m hopeful.
Spring is a time for beginnings. Much more than the first of a new year—at least to me. I’m one of those visual folks who long to see change—color—shapes—textures. The unending brown unnerves me a bit. My soul is expecting color, but my eyes see bare brown branches.
But I know that inside the trees and inside the bulbs magic is happening. The blue sky resists the clouds’ attempts to hide it. It peeks out—a watercolor azure mixed with pure white.
“A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period —
When March is scarcely here…”
This is my 60th spring. Last week my dental hygienist reminded me –gently—that even though I had just turned 59, I was now living in my 60th year. So…my 60th spring.
Flashback to the 1960’s. I remember fresh Toni perms on otherwise straight white-blonde hair. The stink. The burn. The fuzzy white curls my mother loved. An Easter dress in pale green with a white apron. White anklets and white patent shoes. I loved the shoes. I enjoyed the egg hunt at my grandparents’ farm. Unfortunately, what I liked best was taking OFF all the Easter apparel and getting into comfortable, rowdy clothes. My poor mother—she wanted me to look cute all day; I couldn’t give her more than three hours.
If my life runs according to seasons, I guess I’m in late autumn. I’m not the ubiquitous “spring chicken.” My mirror and my body remind me I’m not young anymore. It’s so weird—time is. I feel like I did at 30 and 40, but my body is slower. More awkward. My balance shifts too easily. Words slip away from me, so conversations with my husband become like guessing games:
Me: “You know—it’s that thing… you put on at night…it covers you…”
Husband: “Hmm. A cover? Pajamas? Blanket?”
Me: “Yeah—blanket.” Sigh of relief.
And yet…and yet my mind whirls with ideas and thoughts and plans; it doesn’t remember that I’m living my 60th spring. I’m not a finite creature—I’m an eternal one. The 19th century writer, George MacDonald, said: “We don’t have a soul. We are a soul. We have a body.” I love that. This body may age, but my soul keeps learning. And God keeps moving me and teaching me. His Word still compels me to read and study and learn. I’m not used up yet.
I’ve been studying Genesis since before Christmas. Begin at the beginning. I first thought, “Good grief—I’ve studied this so much—I know the stories. I KNOW the words. What else could the Holy Spirit teach me?”
Of course I was wrong.
I grew up in the church. A Southern Baptist church. The doctrine of that denomination is centered on the truth of the Bible. I love that about it. As denominations go, it is solid. God’s Word is inerrant. Trustworthy. Infallible. Being grounded by that church experience helped me through divorce and disease and disillusionment.
As a part of that Southern church culture, I was baptized when I was seven. It was a natural progression for me. I believed that Jesus was who He said He was. I believed the Bible. I trusted in God’s truth and promises…as much as any seven-year-old little girl could.
–How does life get so messy between 7 and 59? How does it get so filled with failures and sinful decisions and endless consequences?
So this time as I read through Genesis, I saw it afresh. I saw it with springtime eyes and 59 years of life. I saw how beautiful and perfect God intended our world to be, and I saw how quickly we fell. I noticed how Satan twisted God’s words into something that tickled Eve’s ears and played with her pride. I noticed that prior to The Fall, even the serpent was “good.” The serpent wasn’t Satan—it was used by Satan, and since it was already in the Garden, Eve wasn’t caught off guard by its presence.
That’s how temptation and sin slips into our lives so easily. It comes to us easily. Comfortably. It twists God’s words just a bit—just enough—that we get caught off guard just like Eve. We start thinking God is petty tyrant keeping us from good things. We start seeing Him as a master manipulator and not a good and loving Father.
Re-reading Genesis and really examining the Hebrew and wrestling with the tension between God’s Truth and what a secular culture sees as foolish mythology grounds me even more in faith while changing my perspective. God shifts the lenses in my glasses and helps me see the world as He sees it—as He saw it. Through my study of Genesis, I don’t see a petty tyrant god—I see the God who warned Cain that “sin was crouching at his door” because of his jealousy towards Abel, his younger brother. In Genesis 4, God notices that Cain countenance—his body language—exhibited anger. He questions Cain as to the reason, though He knows the answer.
He tells Cain to be careful—to master his feelings. But Cain ignores God’s warning and lets his emotions move him to murder.
Like Cain, I sometimes ignore God’s warnings and let my pride and self-righteousness fuel my responses to life. More often though, I let my feelings of purposelessness and loneliness fuel my anger. I miss my family. I miss my grandkids. I miss the feeling of “home.” And if I let these emotions take hold and ignore God’s urgings to rest in Him and trust in Him, I say something I regret. Or I dive into depression and self-pity.
The temptations come insidiously—wrapping truth in half-truths.
When I fall like that, it takes awhile to recover that intimacy with God that I long for more than anything else. It takes repentance. It always takes repentance.
The writer, Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, reminds us that repentance comes before grace (Openness Unhindered). Winter before Spring. The bare branches of my life bowing before an almighty God—El Elyon.
My journey through Genesis continues; I’m up to the life of Joseph. I have a composition book full of notes and charts I’ve drawn trying to get a new perspective on what my Lord was doing as He was building a people group out of Abraham. I have seen the good, the bad, the ugly, and the unspeakable.
But I’ve also seen a covenantal God who bases His promises on who He is and not on who we are.
Abraham was not perfect. Neither was Isaac. Neither was Jacob (who became Israel). And yet…and yet because of God’s graciousness and steadfast love (that phrase moves through the Old Testament), He forgives and stays true to His promises. The promised perfect seed that would crush the head of Satan (Genesis 3:15) comes from these imperfect men and women. Jesus Christ. The Messiah. The Son of Man. The Son of God. The Lamb.
Today my 60-year-old branches are bare and bowed down before my Father, but the sap is running. Something is budding inside me that may be small and insignificant in the eyes of the world, but it is true and brilliant in the eyes of God: Obedience.
When viewing my soul through the lens of eternity, I’m still a spring chicken.
photo credit: 2-Dog-Farm <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/22473940@N00/496713941″>a bird in the hand</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>
photo credit: sandklef <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/63114905@N06/29772652554″>Lonely tree branches (explored)</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>