In the past couple of days, during my walks I have been witness to bright tulips. They stud garden patches and bob at the edges of sidewalks everywhere I turn. They are a little miracle. So are the newborn leaves feathering the lacy branches of all the trees in town. Even their reflections in mud puddles are a fuzzy acid green. Egg yolk colored dandelions, little white aster, the grass itself in its verdant abundance – all these growing things are miracles.
The biology I know is really simple observation. I can tell you the process by which cells multiply, transforming from the parts of a seed to new, more specialized cells – root fibers and the cellulose in stalks, chloroform producers and the stamens and pistils that will bring a new generation of flower into being. But I cannot replicate any of it. I cannot build a living plant like I can (in theory at least) build an automobile. So what does all my knowledge amount to? Seeing. Attesting to a process. Describing it.
In the mud puddles bright with sky there is another image embedded, an image behind all the images of the created world. It is the vision Mary of Magdala saw in the garden on Easter morning when she turned to implore of the gardener where the body of her master was hidden. “Mary,” he said to her, just that. And she knew him.
For the Christian community everything happens in the context of the resurrection. God’s exuberant, abundant love spills out everywhere, and our lens for witnessing it is that one transformative event. Who am I? I am the person Jesus calls to in the midst of my fear, anxiety, and heartbreak. I am the beloved whose name is formed by the lips of God when God is newly returned from death to the world.
As seeing and attesting and describing lend validity to our understanding of how a seed becomes a plant, so our willingness to witness the resurrection lends validity to our understanding of God. That’s the purpose of the Christian community: to witness. But in this case the witnessing is itself transforming.
In the words of the First Letter of John, “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he has promised us, eternal life.”
Eternal life – an existence in the present moment that encompasses all the moments that have ever been, a breathing in and breathing out with Christ – this is what it means to abide in him. This is what we are about, what we are meant for.
Listen in the quiet moment of bright tulips and new leaves for the single word of the gardener. Hear how precious on the lips of God is your name.
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.
Image: Icon At the Tomb by Laurie Gudim