The event of spring always feels more like an advent to me; that out of the depths of so much darkness and death can spring the loveliest, liveliest of things. It’s no accident that we celebrate the resurrection of Christ in the same breath as the returning flowers and green fields.
There’s symbolism in everything.
I’m a child of the spring. Not only because my birthday falls in early April, but also because of my connection with the season. I feel intimately the movement and shift of the vernal stirrings. Trying to explain it is like standing in a river and describing its strong undercurrent to someone who sees only rippling waters from their position on the riverbank. I know other people see the water moving: I don’t know that they feel its depths. My life also tends to mimic the cycle of plants. Every autumn is a withering, every winter a hibernating near-death in which I battle the seemingly insurmountable enemies, darkness and depression.
But then comes spring, and pushing through the darkness and into a marvellous light. With it comes the realisation that the things that threatened to bury me are the very elements that strengthen me and give me life. I know spring touches everyone’s spirits- the long-standing jokes of love in the time of cherry blossoms are evidence enough of that- and that I am far from being the only one who feels the burgeoning from its very roots, or fights the deepest dregs of depression in the cold-dark months of winter. We all like to believe we foster special connections with something, but in the true spirit of spring time I cannot even desire to hold sole claim to a thing which by nature is defined by sharing and abundance.
Remember back in January when I told you my word?
I thought I had a good idea of what it would look like, lived out in a life: gold.
I thought of refinement, of value, of beauty and boldness.
Here’s the thing: if you ask God to break and rebuild you, refine you, remove everything but Himself from the throneroom of your heart, you had better mean it. He doesn’t take such requests lightly, and God does nothing by halves. While “gold” may be my word for the year, it’s synonyms are quickly becoming “broken” and “pain,” “relinquish” and “redefine.” I knew refinement would be painful, but I think I’d forgotten that it is a process, and long one at that. I think of the verse in Psalms that describes being refined seven times in a fire. While the particular context is describing silver and as a metaphor for God’s word, the process for refining gold is no less intense, and our lives are scripturally referred to as such on more than one occasion (my favourite example being Job 23:10). The theme to notice across all of these verses is that the refinement and the gold both are meant to give glory to God; the refinement as testament as His actively working, and the finished product a pure and lovely thing because it is testament alone to God’s work. It is pure because the fire brought all of its impurities to the surface where they could be removed to make the gold like Christ. It is lovely because it was submitted to the fire in the hands of the most skilled craftsman who could then form it to His intended design.
As a lump of ore, as the bulb placed deep beneath the earth, I don’t want any of these things. I’m comfortable where I am, warm and safe and full of potential.
However, that same potential is what drives my dissatisfaction. The knowledge that I contain precious metals, that I could be a thing in bloom, eats away at my sense of contentment until I know I can linger underground no longer.
Thus begins the praying, and thus begins the fire.
And refinement begins to feel more and more synonymous with growth; I am finding my way, stumbling through the dark until I meet my full potential and purpose. I am being placed into fire after fire and finding my clutching hands let go of the things I cling to most as they are proven to be the very impurities keeping me from looking more like He who calls me Daughter. Some of these things would surprise you (heaven knows they surprised me)—love, relationships, traditions, desires. Others, the lies and deceit, the insecurities, the false beliefs, all make far more sense. They all feel the same to me, though; things I thought were deeply-valued and intrinsically part of me are quickly being proven false, or cheap, or less-than.
Oh my friends, the letting-go is so painful. I don’t have words to describe the hurt that it is causing me. It is nothing, however, in comparison to the hurt I am causing others as I begin to step out of my old form and shed the lies, shed the counterfeit loves and speak the truth and sever ties that never should have been told or made. The only comfort in these low times of shame and hurt are that I am truly at the end of my pride and self-sufficiency. Only a perfect God could forgive and heal and raise and refine all of this shattered, broken mess. My frayed rope has begun to come undone and I’m working up every ounce of courage to let go and fall, knowing that I’ll simply be moving closer to the safe and caring hands of a Father who will never relinquish me to the darkness that always feels so close at hand.
What’s most confusing of all is the many forms growth takes, all of them itching, moving, shifting, painful. I think of April in these terms, and it’s only ever been agitated by my straining pull to run, to move away, anywhere but here with the pain. Strange that I only recently connected the symptoms with the cause: that all of the discomfort in the world, perennial and painful, could in fact be growth and movement of stretching limbs and earth as it crumbles away.
That not all things are buried in death, but also in preparation and in sleep.
And there’s the image of a buried God emerging whole, strong, and new, but still no different than He had been throughout the ages. And there’s the mirror image of flowers, exposed and delicate and so full of life; of gold removed once more from the fire, purer than before and lovelier for it.
There’s symbolism in everything.