Poetry & Words

When Resurrection Doesn’t Come

It’s March, but the vast majority of our usually-vibrant shrubs and bushes bear no hint of green. They’re merely a shell of twigs, flanked by a halo of decaying leaves.

In late December, we were hit with a sudden blast of cold weather. While Tennessee is no stranger to seasonal snowfall, this icy blast was different. The cold blew in far more rapidly than usual, very quickly pushing temperatures below zero, where they remained for days. Plants and trees plunged from comfortable weather to Arctic chill so rapidly the liquid inside instantly froze, causing stems, branches, and sapling trunks to split open and die. The plant cells spontaneously combusted — in ice, not in fire [1].

There is grief in this.

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I received a complimentary copy of The Kingdom of Heaven: A Gardening Primer from Harvest House publishers for review purposes, but I was not asked to write a blog post.

I ponder the irony. The bodies of plants and trees succumbed to death during a season in which we traditionally celebrate the incarnation and the embodiment of the Divine.

Word made flesh, God made man, seed made plant.

And yet months later, we have no sign of the resurrection. We have plants which will not return from their winter sleep. We have plants which will not rise again when we turn the calendar to celebrate Easter.

Life is like this. Our dead are not all raised in three days like Lazarus. Illnesses are not all healed. Tears are not all dried this side of heaven. Bodies in graves remain, awaiting the final resurrection.

Wendell Berry is not surprised by this. He knows wholeness sometimes takes a millennia. He knows the halo of fallen leaves will decompose. Yet we are to listen, expect, laugh, and practice resurrection.

       Ask the questions that have no answers.
       Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
       Say that your main crop is the forest
       that you did not plant,
       that you will not live to harvest.
       Say that the leaves are harvested
       when they have rotted into the mold.
       Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

       Put your faith in the two inches of humus
       that will build under the trees
       every thousand years.
       Listen to carrion – put your ear
       close, and hear the faint chattering
       of the songs that are to come.
       Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
       Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
       though you have considered all the facts

       ...practice resurrection.[2]

Everywhere I turn, there are reminders of mortality. Tall trees have lost their canopies, turned orange, and begun to crumble. Saplings dry up and snap off with March’s howling winds.

The earth is in decay.

We do not have a balm for all the scars. We must wait, and listen, for in the winds of earth there is the stuff of heaven. [3]

And I await the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Kingdom of Heaven: A Gardening Primer is available after March 7 from Catechesis Books / Harvest House publishers.


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