Where I live right now, we’re going through our first thaw of spring. This is my absolutely least favorite time of year. My favorite time of year comes when the ground is warm and the seeds are being planted and the world is full of potential. These things take time.
The first thaw isn’t about the potential of spring. It’s about revealing the reality of the world around you. The snow, that beautiful blanket of glistening white, is drunk into the ground, and it leaves nothing but mud and trash behind. Everything is gray, brown, and wet. The ground has an unpleasant odor. The days are dingey and raining. The world is shown to us in it’s true nature- the trash and odd McDonald’s bags that had been covered by snow, the grayish brown slime of salt that covers the sidewalks, everywhere wet and cold.
Snow doesn’t purify, it hides.
Sometimes our “salvation” feels the same way. We say we are washed white as snow by the blood of Christ, but that concept is always dueling with the fact that we are left gray and muddy by our own choices. We aren’t made perfect in an instant the way the songs imply. Salvation is something we must work at continually, by our choices day after day. We can accrue the trash and McDonald’s bags and cover ourselves with Christ’s blood and pretend it’s all okay, but at some point the sun will come and the thaw will begin and our true natures will be revealed.
I always find it interesting that Easter falls around this time of year, in the waiting period, when we are still expecting the miracle of spring and the renewal of creation. I find it interesting that we stand outside in the cold and the mud and watch the sun rise and feel that hope. I find it interesting because the hope doesn’t ever seem quite there for me yet, the ground isn’t warm enough, the magic hasn’t started.
The renewal of creation is bought by the revelation of how cold and barren the world really is. Our own renewal is the same- we can’t play at being pure, we need to see ourselves in all of our salt-streaked splendor, we need to face the smell and the muddiness and the despair of the change of seasons. We need to die to self and let ourselves be warmed again by the sun and the rain.
I suppose none of this makes very much sense to anyone but me. All I’m really saying is that, like the changing of the seasons, it’s all a process. Spring doesn’t come because the ground thaws once, neither does Salvation happen in a moment. First the world is revealed, and then it is renewed. It’s all about the process.