The winter seemed tiresome and long. I grew weary of its icy temperatures, sidewalks and streets. According to the calendar, spring had come over a month ago, but I was not convinced that it had—or that it would. One May day, however, temperatures climbed and the sun beamed. The first real spring day had arrived! As I looked around outdoors, I noticed an almost magical transformation around me: hosta plants poking through our backyard soil, buds forming on our red maple tree, and multi-colored tulips adorning neighborhood yards.
Finally, spring had broken through winter’s grasp, but I wondered if spring had been there all along, waiting, poised on the verge of breaking through winter’s hold. Springtime life could not blossom until the proper conditions of warm temperatures and radiant sunshine had appeared.
Perhaps this long-ago memory can help me be a little more patient this year as I wait for springtime to break through. There is something about spring that seems to lift and energize the spirit. I feel it every year and see it in others as well. For some, however, the springtime of the spirit is difficult to come by when discouragement, depression, or unwanted changes occur in their lives.
As a nursing home chaplain, I see many waiting—and working–for just such a transformation. They wait as they recover from surgery. They labor at physical therapy. They learn new skills required of crutches or a wheelchair. They take their medications as directed. They follow all the rules, waking up in the morning to faithfully resume their difficult work toward recovery. In spite of all of this, they wonder if they’ll ever get stronger, recover, or return home. Their hardest work is keeping hope alive.
I’m reminded of the words of Denise Levertov: “How could we tire of hope? So much is in bud.” I like these words of wisdom, yet I’ve seen some who do indeed tire of hope. For them, hoping feels like one more thing to do, something for which they have no energy. I wish I knew the “proper conditions” to help someone’s inner spirit emerge from the bleakness of winter into the hope of springtime life once again, but I’ve found no formulas, answers, methods, or fix-it therapies. I can only be present with them and wait for the mystery of hope–in its own time and wisdom–to break through their inner spirit, sometimes emerging in the most surprising and unexpected places.