Spring is my favorite time of year. I don't know about you, but after the long winter we've had, I'm sure looking forward to some warmer weather! In springtime the world comes out of its frozen slumber... flowers start blooming, birds start filling the tree branches and signs of life reappear once again. There is just something about spring that reminds me that fresh starts are possible. But in order for spring to come, there must be a winter. And with winter comes cold, dark days... long nights... and a bleakness that can leave us feeling lonely and isolated.
The same seasonal rhythm is true in our lives.
In a lot of ways, as the Earth starts anew each spring, we too can start afresh with a clean slate of possibilities. But new life is only possible if we allow winter to come and embrace the potential for a fresh start.
I’ve always liked the image of the phoenix from Greek mythology. Believe it or not, the phoenix was used by early Christians to symbolize their own rebirth and Jesus’ resurrection. In fact, a new praise song, Rise, performed by Shawn McDonald seems to use some imagery of a phoenix:
From this trouble I have found
And this rubble on the ground
I will rise
Cause He Who is in me
Is greater than I will ever be
But according to the myth, in order for the new phoenix to spring to life, the old one had to die.
Let’s face it… the thought of death isn’t appealing. I’m not talking about physical death (which also isn’t appealing)… I’m talking about letting go of those things that are dragging us down, acting as shackles that keep all of us from living the kind of lives that God intended.
Those barriers that are holding us back can come in a number of different forms. It could be an addiction that’s got a death grip on us. It might be an unhealthy relationship with a friend or co-worker. It could be in the area of our finances, with no obvious way to escape financial ruin. And if you fit into one of these categories today, I urge you to find a new start in this area of your life.
As a pastor in this community, I see a lot of broken people on a regular basis. Sometimes their brokenness comes because of things completely out of their control. That’s not what I’m talking about here… after all, the only person’s actions we can ultimately control are our own. But sometimes we’re our own worst enemies… and the things we’re doing are the ones that are stifling us.
This Easter season, I encourage you to examine your life and see where you might need a fresh start. Are you struggling in the area of your finances? Seek out a Financial Peace University class and learn from Dave Ramsey and other finance experts. Are you struggling with an addiction no one knows about? Find a 12-step program that focuses on the specific struggle, or search for a Celebrate Recovery class that deals with addiction in general. Relationship issues? Talk to a pastor or find a counselor to get an outside perspective and prayer support.
Ashes were often used during sad times in scripture… they were worn during periods of grief by those who were in mourning. But ashes were also used to purify those who needed to be cleansed spiritually. Ashes come with death… but death can bring new life. Just ask the phoenix. And Jesus.