Mud Season Redux

Woke up, for what feels like the eleventyseventh morning in a row, to another chill, grey, wet day. Spring Mud Season has apparently settled in for the foreseeable future. It will never get green, or so it feels; we'll be stuck in warm jackets and rubber boots for the rest of time, or at least until mid-May. Oh, yes, there are snowdrops blooming their startling, tender blue--but the weather's also just-barely warm enough for the first few mosquitos. And people's spirits are accordingly soggy. We're getting tired of this--everyone in the supermarket agrees, and that's consensus. There's a sort of floating grump that seems to drift through the dun-coloured landscape like a low-grade old-fashioned London fog.

It's particularly depressing walking down the street - - when the weather's fit for that! My particular street, like most in town, is tree-lined, and it becomes overwhelmingly evident from the stark twigs and branches that springwise, we're spinning our wheels. Oh, sure, there are leaf-buds all over the place, but we need several running days of warmth and sun to start getting that green haze that makes a person hopeful. (Of course, a few warm and sunny days would also bring this year's predicted bumper crop of mosquitos out, but this is Canada; you expected maybe feathers?).

Was thinking this on the way to church yesterday - the weather was, at least, properly Good Fridayish, I'll give it that - when I noticed that one neighbour's yard had turned a deep and vibrant green. The grass is ahead of the rest of the world in this regard, always, but this year it's particularly obvious. Then, when I looked around, I saw that most of the other lawns were the same: beneath the apparent barrenness of woody things, the tough low grass is very much alive.

It struck me then how quiet rebirth often is: not a blaze of drums and trumpets and scarlet-and-gold liveries on the powdered footmen, but a gentleness, an unobtrusiveness: a small change here, a bit of new green there, nothing substantial (it seems) until you see how it all adds up. So much of what matters right now is happening underfoot and in those apparently lifeless leafbuds, in a landscape that may look dead but is in fact extremely busy.

But we're too fixed on the barren brokenness inside us, before us and over our heads; it doesn't occur to us to look down and see what's underfoot. We're so fixed on what's wrong with us (or worse, others!) that we don't see God's love in action in and around us. Grace goes before us silently, underfoot, where we barely notice it at all. It spreads its fingers over the landscape in ways we don't even begin to know about.

Guilt makes us desire suffering, like scratching an itch: the one wipes the other out, temporarily at least. And so we feel we should be nailed up there, next to Christ, hurting as much as he did. It came to me yesterday that that's wrong. If I fast on Good Friday, it shouldn't be to judge and punish my sinful self; that's why Christ is hanging there, so that I don't have to; and who am I to say "no" to his great gift? And who am I to say that others don't deserve that gift, freely given in love for us all, even the people I don't approve of? Christ stood surety for all of our wrongdoing. All I can do now is to keep him company in his loneliness, along with however-many-million in the world who are keeping him company too.

But that was yesterday. Today is another quiet grey landscape, soggy and dispiriting, and what has that got to do with Easter? Where's all the glory and promise we think Easter should be about?

It occurred to me that in fact the Sabbath of the first Easter wasn't about glory and joy: it was about apparent hopelessness, grief, despair: the disciples hiding out in fear; the women gathered trying to relieve the stony agony of a mother who had watched her child die by crucifixion. And when everyone had cried him- or herself into a sort of ragged exhaustion, there would have been desolation very much like this, without apparent promise. The would go about the Passover Sabbath like the good Jews they were, observing the traditions, but with insides as chilled and sorrowful as this landscape seems to be.

But in fact, there is promise: the daffodils are well and truly up, and when I looked out at my side yard, I saw a bramble shoot fully leafed. It happens so gently, almost apologetically, and you're so fixed on whatever your personal Mud Season is, that life comes back almost without your noticing. The women walking through the cool damp of the dawn, through a grey and quiet city, focused on their grief, found a garden in silence, where nothing obvious was different--except, of course for the stone. We sing of Christ's birth "He came all so still": it was a miracle in quietness, without fuss. He carried that same pattern into his resurrection. There were no fireworks or choirs of exultant angels: only in stillness, new life seeping in as unobtrusively as the grass grows.

Funny, how this pattern often repeats itself in our resurrection life.... redemption does come: sometimes in big and noisy ways, but far more often covertly: the healing happening bit by bit, the thaw sinking down into what had been frozen, the sap starting in trees that still look dead. That's what the resurrection tells us. All we need is trust and just a little patience.

This is a waiting moment in both senses: the stillness of Mud Season, the stillness between the horror and the glory. It's not a time to neglect, though: it's a time to think about how small God's movements can be, how little we notice them - but how, under our feet, redemption unfoldsbwithout much noise or any real fanfare. Grace prevenient; Grace spreading before us, silently underfoot.

Copyright © 2000 Molly Wolf. Originally published Sat, 22 Apr 2000
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