Last fall, I drove a familiar stretch of highway with the radio blasting and my mind tallying to-do list items. Suddenly, a peculiarity on this route I traverse every day caught my eye: The ground of the median, typically green and well-tended, was now black and charred. A fire had claimed this small square of land too. Over the next couple of days, though, green sprouts quickly popped up between the black blades, and it didn’t take long for the signs of destruction to completely disappear. New life, after all, is stubborn and persistent in its glory.
We giggled together as we watched her baby toddle across the room. “He’s walking!” I exclaimed, marveling at how much he had grown and changed since I had last visited. I imagined my friend as a young child, struggling to care for her little siblings and wishing the kitchen cupboards greeted her with something other than emptiness. The well of beauty and goodness inside of her could not be tamed, though. I again stood in awe of the tenacity and grace she exuded, this beautiful woman who was once a young child fighting to survive. The Imago Dei, blooming unfettered in and through her: New life is stubborn and persistent in its glory.
I held his hand and stroked his brow, occasionally reading to him passages of scripture he had long ago memorized. He hadn’t spoken, to me or anyone, in more than a day or two. His breathing was still steady, though, a testament to the strong and steady cardiovascular system keeping his body alive even in spite of the cancer ravaging his body. For some reason, his difficult and labored dying reminded me of the painful contractions that usher a squalling baby into the world. My family and I sat in a vigil around him, waiting for the death contractions to cease and the mystery of new life to find him with his last breath. The waiting, lingering in the painful reality of death looming heavy, was excruciating. But, new life is stubborn and persistent in its glory.
The end of February found me suspended in darkness…weary from physical darkness, and overwhelmed by a darkness of spirit. But, as it turns out, even darkness has a purpose in new life. Scientists have discovered that plants store up essential proteins in the dark, so that when light returns, the plants have everything they need in order to grow and bloom. It seems we often avoid and flee the dark, but I wonder what essential elements we need from darkness so we can grow and thrive in the light. I decided to press into the dark, to listen to what was stirring in my spirit and scoop up what seemed essential for the journey forward. And sure enough, the snow began to melt and the sun beamed more brightly. The darkness prepares us for light, because new life is stubborn and persistent in its glory.
And so, I want to say this to you—you glorious human being perfectly crafted to embody and spill forth the persistent spark of the God-flame: What feels charred, hopeless, dead, and dark might actually be the incubation of new life. The labor process can be excruciating. The darkness can be terrifying. The charred landscape can feel hopeless. But new life is stubborn and persistent in its glory. Never cease to look for signs of budding hope…for where there is darkness, goodness is being stockpiled for growth in the light.