Different year, same story

Photo by Norma Thatcher

The advice on social media was clear: “Let your garden sleep in. Wait to tidy up your garden for spring until we have a week of temps in the 50s or above. This year’s pollinators are still sleeping in your plant stems and leaves until then.”

Thinking that by mid-April Virginia was past the point of freezing overnight temperatures (wrong: NOAA is calling for widespread frost tonight–sigh), a few days ago I cleared out the detritus that had gathered around the base of our hostas. It didn’t look like much at first, but my waste collection bin filled up quickly.

While I am not the gardener in the family, I do enjoy doing this part. There’s something satisfying to me about scooping away dead leaves, twigs, and old blooms and uncovering the new growth underneath.

You see, even though I know what I’ll find—tiny green shoots bursting through the soil—rediscovering this sign of new life each year brings me great joy. No matter how hard our winter has been, no matter how much snow has fallen or how long the frozen sleet-topped snow has lain heavy on our plants, I can count on the warmth of spring to breathe life back into what’s underneath the ground.

Easter affects me the same way. I’ve heard the Easter story all of my life, and I have taught the story as a Sunday School lesson for many years. I know what happens. There are no surprises for me.

The last two days of Jesus’ life were horrifically tragic. He endured arrest, physical and mental abuse, and the mockery of a set-up trial by the Pharisees and other religious leaders. Then Jesus is flogged nearly to death by overzealous soldiers of the Roman empire. He was forced to carry the horizontal beam of his own cross to the hill of Golgotha. When he finally arrived, his hands were nailed to the crossbeam before it was lifted up to attach to the vertical beam that remained in the ground. After bearing hours of near asphyxiation, excruciating pain, and shock, Jesus died. His body was removed from the cross and handed down to his mother’s waiting arms.

After being anointed with burial oils, the body of Jesus was placed in a hillside tomb and the entrance was sealed with a huge boulder. The story appears to be over. Jesus is left dead and alone and sealed in a tomb.

On the third day, though, everything changed. The stone was rolled away from the entrance, and the angels almost incredulously asked the women who have come, “Why are you looking for Him here? He’s alive, as He had told you he would be.”

Just like I already know that I’ll find those green shoots sprouting up from among the debris in my yard, I know the Easter story ends with renewed life. But even knowing how the story ends, I still find great joy every year in the rediscovery.