Mar 31 2013

Easter’s Uniqueness

zebra 554Over the years many have noted the appropriateness of Easter coming during the season of spring.  Easter is very much about renewal on our part but when it comes to finding parallels to what Jesus experienced in nature it is a pretty difficult thing to do.  For many years people have used the butterfly as a symbol for Easter.  Some think the caterpillar that enters a cocoon and comes out a butterfly is a reminder of the resurrection.  That, to me, seems more like a symbol for change or metamorphosis than resurrection.   The caterpillar does not die and then come back to life.  It is simply transformed.

resurrection fern 703When Rob and I were in the Everglades late last year we took a naturalist-led tour through a swamp and were told about a plant known as the resurrection fern.  It grows on trees and during dry spells it basically withers.  Once it rains, however, the plant revives and becomes a vibrant and verdant fern once again.  Once more, this is a matter of rejuvenation, not resurrection.  The plant did not die and then come back to life again.  Perhaps the closest we come to a parallel in nature is the one Jesus himself gave.  He once said, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)  Even here, however, it is not a literal death that occurs.

I stress the differences here because I feel that it is important to understand how unique and special the Easter event is.  There are no true natural parallels.  Plants and animals do not die and then come back to life again.  Neither do humans; not, at least, after two or three days, and when they are medically revived it is only to  die permanently later.  We cannot minimize what happened when Jesus rose from the dead.  It was not a natural phenomenon.  Instead it was the grandest miracle of all.

_CES2288It has been said that Jesus’ resurrection marks the beginning of a new Creation.   After Easter everything changes; the old order of things passed away and the world began a brand new era.  I could not begin to explain it in words but I do believe that the resurrection of Christ has cosmic implications.  What happened on Good Friday and then Easter has changed the world forevermore.  It offers to humans and Creation alike hope.  On this day I celebrate that hope and encourage you to join with me in doing so.  Happy Easter!


(I took the Zebra butterly and caterpillar images at Cypress Garden in South Carolina and the resurrection fern image at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Florida.)

Sep 25 2011

Embracing Struggle

In Letters to a Young Poet Rainer Maria Rilke says “we must embrace struggle.”  He writes this after noting that most people seek to resolve everything  “the easy way.”  When I read this a few days ago I had to admit I have a tendency to want to resolve things the easy way.  I am certainly not one prone to embrace struggle.  Rilke then goes on to say, “Everything in nature grows and struggles in its own way, establishing its own identity, insisting on it at all cost, against all resistance.  We can be sure of very little, but the need to court struggle is a surety that will not leave us.”

Since reading these words I’ve given them a good bit of thought.  Rilke has a point.  When you look at nature you see that there is a sense in which everything “grows and struggles in its own way.”  This struggle in many instances is not something bad at all but necessary.  For example, I remember hearing about a person who came across a cocoon where a butterfly was in the process of emerging.  Seeing that it was quite a struggle for the creature this person assisted the butterfly by cutting the cocoon.  The butterfly was freed but soon died.  What this good intentioned person did not realize is that the struggle to free itself from the cocoon is a necessary part of the process.  It is what strengthens the wings so that the butterfly can fly.   I guess you could say the butterfly’s struggle is a prelude to flight.

As I think back over my own life I cannot help but see that I, too, have found strength through life’s struggles.  I can’t say I enjoy struggle but my life would be very different today had I been able to escape all the hard times or struggles that have come my way.   It’s probably only human that we try to avoid struggles when we can but no one can escape struggle entirely.  Nor should we want to.  What I now see is that struggle is necessary for the building of character.   If we do not experience struggles in life we, like the butterfly, cannot grow nor can we fly.  I think that’s what Rilke was trying to say in his letter.  I also feel it is the message sounded in the first chapter of  the Book of James.  Here we read: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (vs. 2-4)

I’m not sure how quick I will be to embrace struggle in the future but both of God’s books—Scripture and Creation—teach me that it is a wise thing to do.  If I want to grow and fly I really have no choice.  Neither do you.


(Above you’ll find two beautiful butterflies I have been privileged to photograph.)