March, according to the folklore, comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb – a particularly apt image right now, given that I'm in Wales, the land of Aslanic revivals, the country of 33 million sheep. But this March did the opposite: came in like a lamb – meek, mewling, soft-footed, timid – and left like a lion, roaring and leaping and shaking its great gold mane. Or even more, it flew off like a Welsh dragon: glittering, awesome, breathing fire.
The last week of March was a piece of high summer. It was day upon day of unmarred blue and balmy breezes. It was tannig weather, t-shirt weather, beach weather – of which we took full advantage, visiting in four days no less than four strips of local coastline, each postcard beautiful. It's not hard to love Wales even in the rain, but this sunshine has knocked us head-over-heals.
And it's jumpstarted spring. When we arrived here, all was barren: ground and tree and hedge. All sat death-like beneath gray cold sky. But not now. Now earth awakens, unfolds, spills over. It's a swirl of color. It's a dance of bees. It's a chorus of birds.
I suppose we all have our ways of knowing when we are ready for heaven, when the valley of the shadow of death sits so heavy on us that we pine to dwell in the house of the Lord forever. My touchstone is spring. When the day comes that it fails to stir me, I'll know I'm not long for this world. When the day arrives that spring's first crocus or daffodil, its first cherry blossom or uncurled leaf, does not jolt me fresh with hope, I'll know I'm ready to head for the wild blue yonder.
But that day hasn't come yet. I relish every last little sign of spring (well, maybe not the pollen-thick air, which wreaks havoc on Cheryl's allergies). And I see why God chose resurrection, of all ways, to announce Christ's triumph and our salvation. He could have, in his infinite power, simply extended to humans the gift of deathlessness: that faith in Christ short-circuited our death entirely, that is was our get-out-of-jail free and proceed-directly-to-Go card. But he chose instead the way of death and resurrection. He chose to let the seed fall into the ground first, and then to conjure it up a hundred-fold.
It's a more decisive way to be done with death: to beat it at its own game. To submit it to it only to subvert it. To get buried in it, only to go bury it. To make it seem to have the last word, and then let life speak the last word instead.
I know that spring is not the same as resurrection. But it bears certain striking similarities. Among them, maybe foremost, is this: spring, like resurrection, reignites hope in a heart that's nearly stopped. For spring, like resurrection, declare that death never gets the last word.