The scents of wet earth slowly filtered into the car as we drove, smells of decay and broken sod. This autumn is weighing heavily on me, the signs of death so soon after the triumph of Easter. Where, o death, is your sting? Right here, in the fading and falling leaves, in the dying light and cooler temperatures of the shortening days.
How can we claim this triumph over death? How can we say Christ has put death itself to death, when the signs are all around us that it is right here?
Without death and decay there is no compost, no nourishment, to bring forth new life. It isn’t death so much that is the problem, it is our slavery to it. A friend reminded me that Easter is not just a weekend, it is a whole season of fifty days through until Pentecost. Right now, we are in the season of Easter, of hopes fulfilled, promises met.
God asks us to carry this message of new life, new light, as our year turns evermore toward winter, our days growing shorter and colder, our nighttime darkness stretching out over its boundaries, encroaching on the day.
It feels like such a burden to bear, to carry this hope through autumn and into winter, a stubborn holding-out against the proofs of the world.
How did carrying hope end up a burden?
But it is a fight against the world, persisting in belief against everything the world shows us. And isn’t that what faith is? Choosing to believe and trust and rely on what Got says to us, even when the world deems it foolish, even when all proof says the opposite?
I think of Elijah, being so sure God would send rain, that he sent his servant seven times to look and see, and even then he came back saying, “there is a cloud only as big as a man’s hand.” How could one small cloud on the horizon possibly mean there would be sufficient rain to break years of drought? How could one little cloud be enough? Surely after that long, people were tired of hoping, tired of seeing clouds come to nothing, resigned to their dry fate?
But Elijah had faith. He knew with surety that God would bring the rain, and so could see this one small, long delayed cloud as a sign of its coming, knew that it meant good news when others would only see unfulfilled and disappointed hope. What others would see as a reminder of their dryness, their emptiness, Elijah saw as a promise of renewal, hope fulfilled.
So maybe this death and decay which surrounds us as we lean into autumn can be seen differently too. Maybe instead of seeing them as hopes dashed, Messiahs put to death, they can be seen as the old falling away, making room for the new to come. Maybe this burden of hope we carry through this autumnal Easter season is more of a pregnancy, making space for new life to come forth. Perhaps it can be a time of letting things die off so they can be resurrected and bring us new life.
We bear within us this seed of new life, of new hope, of glory to come. And one day it may burst forth, overflowing into our lives.
But right now, it remains more of a promise – “I must leave you, but the Holy Spirit will come,” said Jesus. This resurrection in the face of death is not all there is.
So, bear it, carry this light with you, even when all evidence shouts against it. These seeds of hope will not die within us, unrealized. Our god is El Shaddai – the All-Sufficient – to bring this forth.
Original picture by Lizzie Guilbert.