A few weeks ago I followed my dad out into my mom’s garden when he went to pick the remaining vegetables. Most of the plants were dark and bent and dead. The okra was half the height it had been, and the beans’ home-built trellis was tilting with mad exhaustion. The tomato vines curled blackly around their stakes and a few last over-ripe tomatoes, glowing orange-red, hung almost oozing off of them. Ever since then I have wanted to write this entry.
The changing of seasons always puts me in an Easter mood. Each time the earth shifts humors in its cycle of yearly sinking down into somber sleep and rising up again, new and singing, I think of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ line: “There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.” This is both one of my God’s favorite party tricks and the grandest foundation of his character: he continually brings life out of death. Brown leaves rot and carpet the earth, so that fresh green life will leap out, nourished by death in its last decay. The withered hand is stretched out, whole again. Four-days-entombed Lazarus comes forth, trailing his grave clothes behind him.
And so for me, it is Easter weekend. It is always Easter weekend. Christ died and rose to life, and so, in miniature, must we, along with the rest of his creation. I am not saying something new. I’m saying something very old. Not only do we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but we, with Christ, are baptized into death (Romans 6). But then, on the other side, (hear this,) then we come up out of those strange pathways and that dreadful river and look down to find our feet new-shod with the gospel of peace, fit to face the day.
The old self must crumble and rot, so that the new self can rise and grow. Death is the only way through to life.
Eventually, when we rise up out of death, clinging to our Savior’s hand, we will turn and see that the old dark valley and those rushing waters are gone and dissolved for good and all: that Donne spoke true and death has died. Our feet will no longer be new-shod, but new feet entire, whole and well, fit to face eternity.