No matter when Easter comes, it seems the right thing to do to get out in the garden immediately following the great day. This year, when Easter was almost as early as it can be, and earlier than it will be again for another 220 years, it was finally warm enough yesterday to countenance the thought of it. So I got out there, to rake and prune and bag for an hour or so. There's more to do, but not much more, really: this is a mature garden, now, and it more or less runs itself. All its citizens need at this stage is a snack and something to drink now and then, maybe a wee bit of refereeing when a fight breaks out over who will get which sunlight. That's about it.
I have been thinking a lot these days about letting other beings work out their own problems whenever possible. Children, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ: in my life, I have tended to hover over the people I love, and it has not always been to their ultimate good. It has always seemed kind, at the time, but short-term good is just that: short-term. Sometimes the thing that feels best in the short run fails utterly in the long haul.
I need look no further than the days and weeks that followed the first Easter for some guidance in this regard. Raised from the dead in an event so unlike anything else that no two people who experienced him afterwards seem to have seen the same thing, the risen Christ did not stay around to hold his disciples' hands as they came to terms with what it would all mean in the rest of their lives and the rest of history. That was a journey they needed to make themselves.
When we talk about Jesus guiding us, when we ask ourselves What Jesus Would Do, as if we could always know what that was, when we print his words in red letters in our Bibles and in our hearts, as if we were sure they were all his words and sure what he meant when he said them, are we really understanding the way he seems to have asked us to live? He repeatedly appears and then, repeatedly, leaves. Finally -- in just a few weeks -- we will observe the occasion of his last leaving, ascending straight up to heaven with one last promise: I am with you, even to the end of the ages. Not I will live your life for you or I will make all your hard choices for you or I will grease the skids for you.
Life is a journey we each must make ourselves. We do not make it alone -- I am with you -- but we cannot make it to the end of it in a spirit of trust and reasonable good cheer unless we develop fully the capacity and strength we have been given as the raw materials of our lives. Failure is far preferable to never having tried, and we need not be afraid of it. Our failures never sum us up, never; rather, they are the engines of most of our growth if we will allow them to challenge us.
Our first daffodil bloomed today. It didn't bloom yesterday, when I was out there raking. It didn't need me to bloom; it was born to bloom. It needed what it needed from me -- a little bone meal, some compost, a decent place to put down some roots and soak up some sun to replenish its own very capable bulb.
And then it needed to be left alone.