After six months of winter, spring is finally poking its head out in the Northeast. I was on my way to work a few weeks ago when I noticed. A faint mist of green hovered over the park that I pass each day. The grass was changing from winter's brown to spring's golden green, and the feathery tips of leaves were reaching their tentative fingers toward the rising sun.
I had to stop and soak it in. Spring!
I've lived for a while in a region with seasons, so spring comes as no surprise. Yet each still-uncurling leaf is, nonetheless, a tiny miracle - the fulfillment of nature's yearly promise. And this is what struck me as I took in my patch of spring in the city a few weeks ago. Even when Boston is at its most barren, I'm always aware of the certainty of growth. That underneath the snow, just when it feels as if the natural world is frozen along with the rest of us, something is happening. Come spring, we see that something for ourselves: tangible evidence of growth.
Growth was what I was wishing for earlier this year when a series of stressful encounters with an angry co-worker so unsettled me that they left me feeling physically ill. As is my practice in these situations, I prayed. As I did, it became clear that I needed a better sense of the steadiness of Spirit. It was time to understand why I couldn't be shaken by every storm coming from her direction.
I turned to the Bible where I rediscovered one of my favorite stories about stormy circumstances. In it, Peter and the other disciples are out on a boat, tossed by contrary winds. In the wee hours of the morning, they see a figure walking on the water. Naturally, the disciples are, at first, terrified. But when they learn it's Jesus, Peter wants to join him on the sea. And Peter does - until the magnitude of the storm frightens him and he starts to sink. Jesus, of course, is there to save him. But that's not all. They make it back to the boat, and the storm stops (see Matt. 14:22-33).
As I thought about this story, I realized that with every step, Peter had a choice. He could keep moving forward with his eyes on the Christ, or he could be distracted - overwhelmed - by the storm, and sink. I, too, had a choice in my day-to-day interactions with this co-worker and in my life in general. Would I be swayed by the storms or stand steady with the Christ?
In her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy described Christ as "the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness" (page 332). To me, this definition explains why listening to the Christ works: because Christ's messages present a completely different view of the situation - that there's no storm to be afraid of - and these messages of goodness change everything.
Yet, even as I prayed with these ideas over the next few days, not a whole lot seemed to be changing for me. Sure, I'd made a commitment to hearing the healing voice of Christ. But I was still doubtful as to whether my best intentions would translate into action come the onslaught of a storm. Did I have the strength, the discipline, but most of all, the willingness to hear the Christ over the howling of the wind?
Time passed. For a while there was a pleasant lull. Then one day the phone rang, with a blustering co-worker on the other end. The call surprised me. But what surprised me even more was my response. The problem, which I, too, might have been flustered by in the past, didn't faze me. Neither did this individual's approach to dealing with it.
Here was something new, I thought, as I hung up the phone. In the middle of this unexpected storm, I actually felt unshakable. Growth had been going on in my thought after all.
This spring, I'm smiling even wider than usual as I watch the trees' crumpled leaves smooth and the flowers open their buds, because I see now that nature's promise holds true for us, too. Growth - whether we can see it or not - is a given. And one day, perhaps when we're least expecting it, we'll find ourselves bursting into bloom.
The earth bringeth forth fruit
of herself; first the blade,
then the ear,
after that the full corn in the ear.