Surveying the lush green of new life this morning I was reminded of a profound theological discussion I had with my then 3-year old daughter Joy some 40 years ago about this time of year. She was out in the yard with me on a warm April afternoon. She was enjoying some outdoor freedom after a long Ohio winter of indoor captivity. I was fighting the perennial and hopeless battle with an army of yellow weeds again invading my lawn.
As I dug each dandelion from my lawn by hand, trying to pry their persistent roots from the soil, Joy stopped me in my tracks with a childlike innocent question. She said, “Daddy, why don’t you like the pretty yellow flowers?” Offering the lame explanation that someone had arbitrarily decided to label this part of God’s creation a “weed” did nothing to satisfy her curiosity, but her question got me thinking and wrestling with issues that resurface as regularly as the pretty yellow flowers.
How often do we label other people or other parts of God’s creation “weeds” that need to be controlled or eliminated? What is the collateral damage to others and to ourselves when we waste time and energy or poison relationships or the environment with pesticides and herbicides to make our lawns and our lives conform to the expectations of the world instead of to God’s vision?
As the suffering in Nepal filled the news and the pain of injustice boiled over again in the streets of Baltimore this week I had to fight the despair echoed at least 16 times where the Psalmists ask, “How long, O Lord?” “How long, will you forget me forever? How long must I bear a pain in my soul?” (13:1-2). “How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever?” (79:5). “How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever?” (89:46). That litany is summed up most powerfully in Psalm 22:1 in the words Jesus’ quotes on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
We’ve all been there and done that. Despair about personal pain or social injustice and unrest is another powerful enemy of resurrection living. Our Easter faith is often as fragile as the Easter lilies that decorate our sanctuaries on Easter morning. I worked for a florist when I was in college and learned how delicate and tempermental lilies are. We had to keep them at just the right temperature before Easter so they wouldn’t bloom too soon or too late. Not so the mighty dandelion. When the snow melts after a long harsh winter, dandelions not only rise up from their slumber as temperatures rise, there are often a few yellow heads already in bloom that emerge from under the snow.
We have an entire industry we employ to declare war every year on the pesky weeds, but even as they die they put forth thousands of fluffy white seeds that are scattered everywhere by the wind, and a la the Arnold, they mock us with their dying words, “We’ll be back!” And they always are. That’s why the pretty yellow flowers are a better symbol of resurrection than the fragile, short-lived lily.
So each time I behold another hardy, resilient dandelion, I am reminded of the power of resurrection. Death and despair, pain and injustice, hate and violence may seem to be victorious, in the short run, but the ultimate, eternal victory belongs to the God of justice, peace and love.
The logical, rational realm of prose is inadequate to capture the power of resurrection. So it is better experienced in a pretty yellow flower or in poetic imagery like these from “Hymn of Promise” by Natalie Sleeth:
“In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons a hidden promise, butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter, there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,
In our death a resurrection; at the last a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”