Rain beats against my umbrella and hits the ground in a frenzy as the winds whip the tails of my jacket. And then, as suddenly as it came, the rain stops. The street is silent except for my footsteps and the sound of steeple bells from the Hussite Chuch down the road.
Today is what Czechs call “White Saturday” – the day before Easter – and I’m on my way to the supermarket on the hill above our house to buy a chocolate rabbit before it gets too dark.
I know some Christians have problems with the whole Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies thing, but my mom and grandma have been doing baskets and egg hunts for as long as I can remember. This is my first Easter away from them and I just thought a chocolate animal wrapped in colored tinfoil might make me feel closer to home.
There’s definitely something to be said for the argument that Easter has been secularized. It’s been commercialized; it’s been stripped of its meaning. All those bunnies and colored chicks and painted eggs, they’re distracting. The argument goes that they are part of the paganizing of the holiday.
My mom always explained our pretty Easter baskets and candies by telling us that the eggs, the baby animals, the new plants are all reminders of new life in Christ – spring is the rebirthing of the world, just like we are born again.
Actually, now that I think about it, a lot of my early “theology” stemmed from my mom’s carefully drawn analogies between Biblical concepts and life as I knew it. Sundays were the only day we could eat sweet cereals for breakfast (or donuts once we outgrew Fruit Loops), because Sundays were “set apart.” They’re “a picture of heaven” my mom said maybe a thousand times. This may have something to do with my strong impression as a child that food would be a major part of the afterlife, but now I understand how effective a picture my mom created for me. How do you explain to a child what is rest and peace and joy so divine that the most learned scholars cannot understand it? You can only put it into something small and finite that they can grasp. And my mom did that with donuts and Easter baskets.
But, while the donuts I understood pretty easily, the idea of spring was almost completely lost on me. In fact, every weather and climate analogy used to untangle a Biblical concept has been useless because San Diego doesn’t have weather. We don’t know what it is. We live in year-round almost-spring. Never cold enough to kill anything; never wet enough to turn into something special. It’s an eternal meh.
Living through my first actual spring here in Prague is indescribable, but I’ll do my best for the sake of those who don’t realize what they’re missing.
Winter this year didn’t give us a lot of snow, but even after the ice melted away it was cold, gloomy and dark. No color, no sun, no sounds of life. The funny thing was that I didn’t even notice it until those first spring days in March when the earth finally tilted into the universe far enough to give us longer days and warmer afternoons.
First the birds started singing. They’d begin their songs before the first ribbons of light unfolded across the sky and wouldn’t stop until the stars turned on like night lights.
Then came the flowers. The forsythia covered everything for weeks – they call it “golden rain” here. I think that’s a fitting name. For as long as I live, I will never forget what lonely gray streets look like once they’ve been covered with rows of bushes exploding with golden flowers. The apple trees, the cherry trees, every orchard and garden front in the city suddenly had flowers hanging like ornaments. For days I felt like I was walking through an anime movie because of all the pink trees.
And the warmth. The sunshine. The sun. That big, beautiful sun.
There are puppies on the dog path I take to school, baby ducklings in the pond and insects are starting to hum in our gardens. Moreover, people are out on the streets now. The streets and the parks and the squares are filled with humans who’ve come out into the sun.
New life. New beginnings.
Let me keep this short:
1. Spring is God’s reminder for us. Just as I couldn’t understand greater Biblical doctrines as a kid, finite humans cannot comprehend the infinite. Our limited minds forget and distort the truth. But every year, God gives us spring, in all its fragrance and color, like an egg that He has painted himself. It’s a reminder to us of new life and how absolutely, mind-blowingly beautiful that is.
2. You cannot appreciate spring unless you understand winter.We don’t appreciate spring in San Diego because we don’t know what it’s like to endure the bitter cold and barrenness of winter. How can we appreciate the gift of God’s Son and the life we have through His name if we don’t first realize what it means to be dead. To be empty. To be cold and alone in the dark.
3. There is no life without God. God is like the sun. The sun sheds its light upon the world and the earth, unable to resist, is warmed and revived. Without the sun, the ground stays frozen, the light is cold and the air bites with jagged teeth. To reject the sun is to reject life.
I know that these are just analogies and pictures. They are abstracts that fall apart at some level. To fully understand our need for salvation and the greatness of God’s mercy we need the Bible. Just like donuts and Easter eggs cannot replace the importance of Scripture. But as pictures, they can serve a useful purpose.
The sky is empty of rain and I’m making my way back home, chocolate rabbit in hand. I thank God for chocolate rabbits and for pictures of His love and grace. I thank Him for my mom and grandma who have both perpetuated that image of new life, and lived as an example of it. But mostly this Easter-Eve I thank Him for sending His only Son that whoever should believe in Him will not die, but have eternal life.