I make the same mistake about this time every year. I start thinking about Springtime and growing things, and I look at my disheveled eyesore of a front yard and think I’d better get to work on it. It starts with removing the old dead stuff. I have to pull out all the dead stuff so that new life has room to grow. How Lenten is that?
Well, back to my annual mistake. There are some plants that look really dead, by which I mean they look really really really dead. Like brittle and brown and crackly and half-rotted. They literally could not look more dead than they do. So I do the obvious thing and start breaking them off and throwing them away. And then, usually after I’ve ripped out most of it, I find a fresh green growth on the end of one of those dry, utterly-dead-looking stems. And I realize that all of that plant would have greened, if I’d given it the chance. I’d thought that nothing that dead could ever come to life again, but I was wrong.
It reminds me of a visit when I was young to Yellowstone National Park. There had been a devastating wildfire there that burnt almost a million acres down to black char on the ground. Looking out over that devastation was almost a physical weight, foothills and valleys stretching as far as you could see of char and ash. You could look far and wide and see nothing but death.
But far and wide isn’t the only way to look. Before getting back in the car to go somewhere less depressing, I happened to look more closely at what was right at my feet. Just the smallest little sapling, just starting to poke through the black and grey death. It was my own little version of Ezekiel’s vision: can these dry bones live? Can new life ever come from such utter destruction? Watch, Son of Man.