As the snow begins to recede, I am surprised by how much lively-looking green there is underneath. Instead of vast, brown expanses of slimy mud and dead grass, I see things that are beginning to grow – or more precisely, things that began to grow, unseen, under the forbidding-looking piles of snow and ice. Green shoots are poking up through the earth, promising colorful flowers in the near future. Plants that were thoroughly buried and out of sight for months have little purple, pale yellow, and green buds on them. These shoots and buds are not new. They did not come into existence suddenly, instantaneously. Rather, they were forming slowly as the plants lay buried under the dirty, brown-grey snowdrifts. When all we could feel was bitter cold, and all we saw was piles of filthy, yukky snow that made it hard to get around, new life was beginning underneath the chill and the mess. Mysterious growth was taking place, unknown to us, beneath the outer surface that appeared so grim and lifeless.
How much like the life of faith! How much like the work of God! Sometimes, when all we see is a yukky mess, a hassle, ugliness, or seemingly endless days of dull, grim hopelessness, the reality that lies underneath is completely different. Beneath the surface, unseen, God is at work in mysterious ways, bringing about new life and new growth, like the buds of beautiful flowers forming under dirty snowbanks. When we just feel stuck and trapped, God is at work, bringing movement and transformation deep within.
And here’s the thing that’s really amazing to me. With God’s help, we don’t merely survive. And we don’t just manage to struggle and persevere through the seemingly impenetrable landscapes of despair. There’s more to it. If you ever look closely at early flowers – crocuses, for example – growing in the snow, you will notice something amazing. Each little plant will have a radius of melted snow around it, a little hole in the blanket of whiteness, forming a perimeter of about ½’’ – 1” around the tiny leaves and buds. By the time the flower blossoms in cheery purple or yellow, it has created around itself a little snow-free zone, even if the rest of the landscape is still covered over. Clearly, as these little crocuses grow, they not only have enough life and strength to penetrate the cold, heavy snow, but they actually generate enough heat from within to melt it.
With God working within us, new life is generated deep within our souls. We don’t just mange to survive. We can grow and actually melt the cold, seemingly impenetrable layers of despair, hopelessness and fear that have piled up within our souls like dirty snowbanks. It’s not just a matter of soldiering on, persevering through what feels impossibly hard. It’s about God mysteriously creating something entirely new within us, unseen, when on the surface everything just looks like death. And that “something new” that God creates within our souls radiates life-giving energy. New life radiating like heat outwards from our vulnerable little hearts, melting the hard stuff around it. Eventually, we even bloom with our own glorious new beauty and radiate life outward even more, so that others perceive it. Maybe the radiance of our new life from God will even help to melt the chill of somebody else’s hard, hurting, seemingly dead heart. Showing forth God, radiating outwardly what God is doing inwardly, we can help bring new life and beauty to all kinds of unexpected places of the world.