Story, Value, and Becoming More Real
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Welcoming Spring 2019

April 20, 2019

Lancia E. Smith


Spring comes to me this year with a quality of intensity unlike any spring I have seen before. In Colorado the season has barely started but its certain presence is everywhere evident. Tiny new shoots of leaves, of grasses, of spring wheat in the fields, and early season flowers are peeking out everywhere. Our lawn begins to breathe green again.

I begin to breathe again, too. 

This past winter has been one of the hardest seasons I’ve ever lived through, not so much because of weather but because of circumstances. The circumstances my husband Peter and I faced brought with them an emotional climate of profound darkness the likes of which I have not seen in decades. The questions we struggled with were less about why and more about whether we would survive. Everything became very elemental. Vision became overshadowed with shadow. There were days that I doubted we would survive and doubted whether it would be worth it even if we did. 

Perhaps this past winter was like that for you, too. 

Spring never does come overnight. It comes as an unfolding, slow and sometimes ragged. But come it most truly and certainly does. It comes so persistently we cannot prevent it or even slow it. Like dawn comes certainly after night, no matter how long or dark, Spring comes after winter. Emergence after suffering is a slow and sometimes ragged process, but it is not not our ending point. Spring is our grand reminder that how are things are now — “always winter and never Christmas!” —  is not going to be the way they always are. There is a Day coming when the great thaw and breaking of the curse will unfold around us, just like spring itself.

Like seeds that fall into the soil, decay in the darkness, and emerge later into a new form for an exalted purpose, we also fall into the soil of hardship and in the darkness there are broken and decay, later to emerge in a new form. It’s easy to write about that as an analogy; it is much harder and more costly to live inside that paradigm. It is sometimes easy to talk light-heartedly about rebirth and resurrection as though we are on familiar terms with wonder and mystery. Such talk is either out of ignorance or it is whistling in the dark against our deep fears. 

The only path to resurrection is through death. 

Earlier this year my friend Christina wrote me something that has been lingering in my thoughts about cultivating, planting, surrendering, and trusting through the process of a seed dying to be made new. She wrote,

“…I began pondering the same things at the untimely death of a dear friend, leaving behind his 27-year-old wife, son, and unborn child. Through tears, reading 1 Corinthians 15, (beginning with the verse “Listen, we will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet…” and subsequently read through the whole chapter), I was struck by the passage about seedlings. From death to life; from pain to joy. … I had an image in my mind of how heartache, pain, suffering, death, is really just the painful beginning of a promising life beyond. Because the thing about sowing a seed is that the seed dies. And I’ll bet the dark and slow death it experiences as it decays little by little is a horrible thing for that little seed. But the plant, the hope, the emergence of the green sapling tunneling up towards the light to transform into a flourishing plant is the ultimate end. And the seed remains the center of all that plant’s growth – the place that grounds the roots in the soil so it can stand tall.
And so it is with suffering – it is through suffering that we change – that we grow – that we blossom. I wish there was another way. But it seems there is not. I feel like we must all stand in the pool of pain to reach the fruition of our faith. And through looking at the seed and its story, I am beginning to see mine more clearly.”
As much as I talk and write and teach about courage, the verses I have been most struck by during the past few months have not directly been about courage, per se. They have been about perseverance. They have been about the long act of cultivating of hope through hardship and heartache. They have been about the vulnerable willingness to hope for God’s goodness to be given us in the land of the living. 
“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations,
knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance,
proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint,
because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
~ Romans 5.3-5 
“And now, God, do it again—
    bring rains to our drought-stricken lives
So those who planted their crops in despair
    will shout hurrahs at the harvest,
So those who went off with heavy hearts
    will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.”
~ Psalm 126.3-5
Perseverance is what it takes to produce an oak. Character is what it takes to produce the oaks of righteousness. Character and the passage through mourning. 

“1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins,
They will raise up the former devastations;
And they will repair the ruined cities,
The desolations of many generations.”

~Isaiah 61.1-4
To grow the oaks of righteousness is the pure and simple purpose for Cultivating.  It is these oaks of righteousness – these ones who have weathered through the long seasons and hard conditions that take up the precious call of rebuilding the ancient ruins, raise up the former devastations, repair the ruined cities, mend the desolations of many generations.
It is the oaks of righteousness that become Placemakers and restorers. This is why we cultivate. 
With this Spring issue we celebrate our first year as a magazine! May you find much beauty, much goodness, and much truth in this issue of Cultivating. May you find much to delight you, much to interest you, and much to inspire you!  My prayer for each of us this spring – Spring of 2019 – is that we will persevere, growing in character and abiding in hope, and in so doing each live to see the seeds of the tears we’ve sown come in season to harvest armloads of laughter and blessing. 

The image of Rosa glauca is (c) Lancia E. Smith and used with glad permission for The Cultivating Project. 

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