Finally, the scales of meteorological justice have tipped in our favor. After the gray and gray and gray and cold January, February, March, and part of April, springtime has finally shown up to unlock our doors and usher us back outside.
During the course of winter, I would catch an occasional glance as I dashed between house, and garbage cans, or car and front door…a pile of leaves here, a fence that needs repairing over there. But the frigid weather had a way of shaking those images from my consciousness. With the onset of gorgeous weather, my wintertime excuses have all melted away. It is officially time to tend my garden.
When the weather is cold, I am able to masquerade as a prudent and humane farmer, unwilling to subject defenseless pea and spinach plants to hypothermia. But here we are, two weeks after the Farmer’s Almanac says that the last of winter’s frosts are over. My garden sits fallow like a November cornfield. The bones of once-fertile herb and vegetable plants occasionally poke through the detritus of brown maple leaves like exposed fossils in the Serengeti Desert.
Soon, I must plunge into this fenced off wasteland with rake, shovel, and hoe. Due to my procrastination, enthusiastic young weeds have already begun their summer-long competition with the soon-to-be-planted green beans, tomatoes, and herbs. Each time I pass by our little vegetable graveyard, it is difficult to believe that this fenced off plot could become our family’s produce stand. It’s hard to summon up so much as a seed’s worth of motivation to begin the process.
I wonder if that is precisely how Peter felt in this Sunday’s Gospel passage (John 21: 1-19). The reader gets the sense of his pervasive disillusionment. That heady vision of living a life with meaning, power, and heroism ended with violence, betrayal, and cowardice. Time to return to a diminished life of boats and nets, with a new humiliating self-understanding of the limits of his courage, loyalty, and fidelity
Right in the midst of the sunshine of that first Easter Season, the cold, winter of Good Friday still yo-yoed back into Peter’s consciousness. Jesus may have risen, but the landscape of the future must have appeared as bleak as an untended garden.
As a counselor, I know that for so many, winter winds still blow, despite the readings on the thermometer. The unseasonable coldness of diagnoses, or deaths of those we held dear, have made many of our gardens appear inhospitable to a new spring of growth. Relationships that have sat dormant for what feels like an impossibly long, cold, lonely winter seem beyond the reach of springtime and rebirth. Despite the sunny reports of economists and Wall Street, mounting bills, and insufficient paychecks have a way of coloring things a shade of winter gray.
This Sunday’s Gospel provided important clues about making room for Easter new life when the winter wind refuses to leave on time. On the shores of a Galilean morning lakeside, after the wintery desolation of the cross and three denials, Peter was asked to render a three-fold confession of his love. Just after this healing repartee, Jesus simply said, “Follow me.” He did not provide a detailed plan for the formulation and leadership of a church. His words were the equivalent of placing a shovel, and a rake into Peter’s hands and saying, “Get Busy.” Sometimes answering the call to “Follow me,” involves a choice to simply get going, one footfall-at-a-time, one shovel full at-a-time. It involves placing one foot in front of the other.
This summer, as guests take a succulent bite of the glory of one of my fresh tomatoes, only I will know that this harvest was directly related to the initial decision to step into the garden and get busy when I didn’t feel like it. Some years, a harvest of Easter joy is dependent upon taking that first step into the garden, and methodically getting busy with the steps it takes to produce new life…even when it still feels a little cold and a little bit like winter inside.