The flowers that do well during the ups and downs of springtime in Colorado are hardy and resilient. They have to withstand temperature swings, snow, sun, and wind – sometimes all in the same day!
Even hardy flowers need some special care when they first come out of the greenhouse or garden center. Today I’m celebrating spring by buying pansies for some pots – to go on my front porch and at the entrances to our church. But I won’t plant the pansies today, I’ll give them a few days to adjust to their less-controlled surroundings. This process is called “hardening off” the flowers. Tonight’s temperature is forecast to drop to 27 degrees (F), so I’ll put the pansies in the garage tonight. Then I’ll move them to the carport for a few days. I’ll plant them on Friday. But with a forecast high of 73 on Friday – I might keep them in the shade. What a spring swing!
Once they have had a chance to get used to the variety of conditions outside the greenhouse, the pansies should be able to bloom throughout the spring, until the summer heat does them in. Of course, we could always get hail first … such are the vagaries of gardening.
As I consider the swings in temperature that pansies endure – I wonder about my soul: How do I build resilience in my soul to withstand the unexpected?
When the weather batters the pansies, usually there is a little warning in a weather forecast. The snow that Denver received last Sunday night went according to forecast. Sure, sometimes the forecasters miss a bit, but usually we have some idea when a storm is coming.
That warning isn’t necessarily present for storms that batter our souls. I can distinctly remember phone calls that came without warning: my mom telling me to come quickly, but a same-day flight wasn’t fast enough to see my father alive one more time – my mom telling me about her cancer diagnosis – my husband telling me about his layoff. These kind of calls cut to the heart of our lives – because they are literally life-changing. Is there any way to prepare my soul for these harsh winds?
I remember after my father died and my mother became a widow at the age of 54, I would go through scenarios in my head. What if I became a widow? What would I do? I was only in my twenties, but I went through worst-case scenarios over and over again in my head. A bit of preparedness is useful – in terms of insurance, understanding finances, and such issues. But the scenarios I was replaying were not helpful preparation, they were fearful imaginings. They did not prepare my soul for harsh realities, but left me exhausted.
So what prepares my soul? Perhaps instead of the “hardening off” that I do with the pansies, it is a softening that is best for soul care. Softening to be able to perceive the presence of God even in the hardest of times. Softening to realize that my plan for my life isn’t the only scenario that may unfold. Softening to hold loosely to temporal realities. Softening to see beauty even in the midst of darkness.
The writer of Hebrews describes the kind of gaze that helps our souls become resilient, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus …” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
I can fix my gaze on fear and worry, on actual storms that intrudes into my life, or I can fix my gaze on Jesus. This kind of soul-softening doesn’t make the storm go away. It doesn’t change anything in the circumstances. It just changes my reference point from temporal to eternal. And in the vagaries of spring, that is an important shift for my soul.