Stepping out onto my front porch, I smelled smoke. My heart stopped. Dear Jesus, not this again! But there it was, smoke billowing on the horizon, clouding over the sky. I sat on the porch swing and prayed silently. We had just gone through this a year ago when one of the largest wildfires in Kansas history swept within a mile of our town. And now the prairie was burning again!
My distress was interrupted when I noticed that my neighbor’s apricot trees were blooming! Dashing into the house for my camera, I headed out to the trees to see the flowering miracle. I happily cut off some branches and stuck them into a mason jar.
That day the fire was put out and the flowers smiled sweetly from their glass jar on the table.
A few weeks later, I am floating along, enjoying life, thinking, talking, studying, writing about things dear to my heart. Always I’m turning over shining ideas in my mind, seeking for another angle to this or that issue. I’m happy and oblivious to the trouble brewing…the ways my words hurt others, the rejection and misunderstanding they feel.
And then trouble strikes swift and hard, and I hit the ground with an unlovely smack. I see the wounding I have caused, and my heart spills out of my chest, over my body, onto the sidewalk.
I feel the sting of injustice. I never said what you said that I said! Yet while the accusations may be inaccurate, the broken relationship isn’t.
Groveling in the grimy reality of my ability to disappoint, to wound, to ruthlessly hack apart what is precious to someone else, I find myself caught in a mire of unhappiness. The unhappiness spins out onto people around me. I speak sharply to my little girl for picking a small patch of paint off the wall in her room.
She comes to me after I am in bed, her long, thick hair hiding a face wet with crying. I don’t know how it’s possible to feel worse than I already do, but I do. “Sweetheart, do you want me to come cuddle with you?” I ask. The hairy mop nods. I pick up my little girl and her arms squeeze around me as her head drops onto my shoulder. I carry her to bed, pull the purple-and-lavender quilt over us both, and hold her close. The crying stops and my little girl rests peaceful in my love.
Awake in the darkness, I hear in my spirit:
Walk into the conflict.
Be patient with the process.
I think this walking is too hard. It takes immense courage to hold out my hands to pain. Walking into the conflict means I open up and look at the ugly parts of myself. It also means I see the ways I am misunderstood. It means I can’t avoid acknowledging both the ways I need to grow, and the ways in which I am different from others but not wrong. It means starting the heartbreaking work of reconciliation and stopping the cycle of offense.
The patience is too hard. I want to repair the damages quickly so that I can get back to my dreamy euphoria. But many times the work of love is slow. So very, very slow.
I struggle, and then I remember the apricot blossoms. I think about the knobby branches stretched toward a smoky sky, limbs which only days before looked starkly wretched. I think of the fragile bravery of those flowers–the new life that pushed out through the fire into fruitfulness. The apricot blossoms remind me of the life of Jesus bleeding through barrenness.
The resurrection power of Jesus can bring new life to my broken body and spirit, and to my relationships. The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead can heal the ugliness that I cannot redeem.
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
Romans 8:11 (NIV)
This Easter Sunday, I am deeply grateful that even in my difficult relationships, Christ has the power to make all things new.
How does the power of the resurrection affect your life today?