True to its unpredictable character, Chicago has given us a chilly spring so far; even those of us who have lived here for years and consider ourselves pretty tough are still wearing heavy jackets and coats.
It’s also been quite wet, which means that plant growth is going a bit crazy. Every weekend that I plan to tackle my tiny front yard, which is actually a big flower plot, the temperature drops, and I lack the willpower to weed and dig and plant in the cold mud. Nevertheless, the wild violets are taking over, the tulips and daffodils have already spent themselves, and the grass shoots up overnight. The environment knows when it is time to birth new life.
Springtime triggers a reaction in most of us. When the weather warms up and the air carries the scent of young grass and tiny blossoms, we feel compelled to participate somehow in the great awakening outdoors. Even those of us who are not gardeners are more likely, at this time of year, to take walks and find excuses to be outside. If our environment is at all healthy, we sense the new birth in the air that, with pleasure, we take into our lungs. We think of new projects to begin. Quite a few of us have the urge to spring-clean, to air out the corners of our homes and rid ourselves of months-old dirt and debris.
For all these reasons, spring can be a good time for spiritual retreat. Our bodies and emotions are already responding to nature’s cycle of new birth and renewal. And our bodies cannot be disconnected from the interior landscape. Thus, when we experience spring in our senses, it’s not a big step to integrate spring in our spirits.
Can I air out my soul? Breathe in Divine dreams and visions of a new heaven and new earth? Sweep away the tired resentments, fears, and obsessions? Am I brave enough to start some new plants, such as generosity, hope, and freedom from overattachment? Am I willing to listen as the Holy Spirit stirs something in me that is ready to be born?
In much of the animal world, spring is a time of birthing. It can become, for each of us, a time to consider what the Holy has been growing within us through the long winter. I could not birth children of my own, but I am aware, more and more—even now, in my senior years—that God is always forming in my life a new incarnation of Christ-in-me. Am I joyfully participating in this process? Do I allow myself hopeful anticipation for what will come?
Spring has arrived. And birth arrives with it. The Holy gifts us with possibility and waits patiently for us to receive it as our own and risk what new life might involve.
Contributor: Vinita Hampton Wright
PODCAST The Distillery, Season 1
Vinita Hampton Wright has been a book editor in the religion market for 26 years, serving as editor for Loyola Press for 19 years. She's an author of fiction (Dwelling Places, HarperOne) and nonfiction (The Soul Tells a Story, IVP; The Art of Spiritual Writing, Loyola Press). Wright presents workshops and retreats on writing, creativity, prayer, and Ignatian spirituality. She lives in Chicago with her husband.