Close to Home:
Last Saturday, I slipped out from under my heavy down comforter without shivering, and neglected to grab my stretched-out wool cardigan before heading down the stairs for breakfast. With a steaming cup of coffee in hand, I opened our front door for the paper and there met face-to-face the long-time absent sun, distributing its unseasonable warmth, willy-nilly, all over the neighborhood. I paused for a moment, reveling in my freedom to stand on the porch without hunching over and chattering my teeth. Still in my “winter lasts forever” mode, this sneak peak at spring had been quite unexpected, and like all unexpected gifts was appreciated even more for its ability to surprise me, me whose life revolves around habitual repetition. It isn’t often that I lift up my gaze from the work at hand and say, “Hey, now there’s something new!”
I kept the door open, wide open, bathing our dark, dusty, living room in light. My children, itching like crazy for the possibility of a coat-free Saturday riding bikes not seen since October, gathered the necessary supplies for playing all day long outside the confines of our ancient, paint chipped, Victorian. I tried to go on with my to-do list, absent-mindedly washing a dish here, folding a towel there, all the while straining my neck for a glimpse of Elijah reading a book in his favorite climbing tree, Priscilla practicing her two-wheeler, and Benjamin swinging a baseball bat. Finally, when I could stand it no longer, the to-do list was tossed out completely. Averting my eyes from a half-cleaned kitchen, I swooped little Mary up into my arms and headed for the swing set with youthful giddiness.
Everything felt fresh and promising. Even the scabs on Priscilla’s knees still wet with dirt and blood (badges of courage from a half dozen wipeouts), induced nostalgic memories of my own stubbed toes and fearless summer escapades. Her pasty white skin blossomed with flushes of pink, like our now sleeping rose bush will awaken and bloom in the brightness of a June morning. After so much death, so much coldness, I was reminded that life returns with vigor regardless of our homicidal and suicidal tendencies toward destroying each other and ourselves. I felt smiled upon despite my great offenses.
Sometimes my faith feels inaccessible, like the mirage of a watery oasis in a dry and thirsty desert. Eagerly, I reach out with my cup for refreshment only to choke on mouthfuls of sand. But other times, unanticipated times, when I am steadfastly moving forward- loving, repenting, and persevering the best I can, my faith becomes more tangible than anything else around me. Christ’s resurrection becomes all I can see, hear, taste, and touch: in the buds of green on naked branches; silence disrupted by a cheerful song chirping just outside my kitchen window; once empty sidewalks now littered with pastel chalk, jump ropes, and scooters; elderly grandparents cuddling newborn babies; freshly picked strawberries staining my eager lips; the cycling of winter into spring.
Even now as I prepare my umpteenth lunch of hummus and pita, as I prostrate in recitation of St. Ephraim’s Lenten prayer, in the back of my mind I am humming the triumphal hymn of death being trampled by death. I am more cognizant of the reality that Lent, like winter, will not last forever. Now is the time to renew my commitment toward readying myself for the bridegroom. Now is the moment to light my lamp in preparation for His glorious return. This weekend it snowed again. Once more, I am wrapped in hat and mittens. I continue on with the scraping of windshields and the wiping of boots on our doormat. But all the while I am joyfully aware of the warmth and life that is just around the corner. I am gathering the necessary supplies for living outside the confines of this broken down, sin chipped, existence. I will welcome with open arms and yearning soul, my Spring, my Hope, my Resurrection.
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