Like most people, I love springtime. It is such a gift to move from winter, with its cold darkness, into the growing warmth and light of spring. It is renewing in hope and transforms us as the world around us comes to life again; the growth inspiring us to grow and come to life again as well.
Not that springtime does not have its struggles. While I love the season, it is the most difficult time for dog walking. Of course, my Keisha loves to run in spring, and I love to walk as she runs with new excitement, but the mud and the standing water of spring rains and melting snow make the walk a mess. I come home, each day, with muddy pants, and shoes almost an inch taller with mud.
One winter day, I was ice fishing with my friend Micah Samson in Eden, and he offered a solution to my dilemma. After dinner, we drove to his store, Muskrat Farm Supply, and I began trying on some boots they were selling.
Eventually, being a good salesman and a great friend, he sold me a pair of Bogs boots. They are the perfect spring boots, one piece, waterproof, easy on and off, and I can just hose them off when I am back home. I have rarely made a purchase that has, in every instance, been worth every penny. They have radically transformed my spring walks.
Before, I would spend time plotting out my path through muddy roads and water soaked fields. I would try to figure out the best way to avoid pitfalls so I could come home a bit less dirty, and often I would fail. I cannot help but think about how, last year, I chose poorly and ended up ankle deep in ice cold muddy water, soaking my shoes, socks and pants.
Those days are gone now.
Pulling on my Bogs, I just walk through it all, mud, water, muck, I love it. In fact, I kind of revert back to childhood and actually seek out the muddy water just to plow right through it, and my pants, tucked into my boots, stay dry, as do my feet.
There is a freedom found in not having to let those pitfalls slow me down or make me change direction. Keisha, of course, comes to the car wet and muddy, but happy, and the back seat is a disaster, but I am dry and clean.
It makes a difference, knowing I can make it through, and this changes my way of thinking. The pitfalls are there, but how we face them makes all the difference. We may be walking where we have never walked before, or facing struggles we never imagined, but finding the ability to endure, and thrive, makes the struggle an opportunity for springtime life and growth.
Several weeks ago, I was facing a Holy Week without any public ceremonies, and I was wondering how to make it all work. I never thought I would have to think about such things, but there we were. I asked myself what would be most meaningful for people, and how to help them remain connected to these deepest mysteries of our faith.
I made the rather radical decision to live stream the Holy Thursday Mass, the Good Friday service and Easter Sunday Mass, but not the Easter Vigil. I was not sure that we would do it justice as we broadcast it, since we would be celebrating no baptisms, no receptions, no confirmations.
This is not to say we ignored it; Fr. Andrew Thuringer and I decided to celebrate a quiet Easter Vigil.
In the deep dark of the empty church, we lit the fire and lit the Paschal Candle that will light us throughout this year, we sang its Exsultet praises, we listened quietly as we took turns proclaiming the prescribed readings and sat quietly to ponder them. We ended by blessing the Easter water and renewing our baptisms before quietly preparing the altar for the morning’s solemn Eucharist.
It was a moving experience, and while we sat in the church, it did not feel empty at all. The light of the new candle was powerful and the feeling of others being with us permeated the quiet darkness. We had that sense because, as we sat, everyone we knew, everyone we loved, all our parishioners were facing that same darkness.
It was unlike any Easter Vigil I had ever experienced before, but its beauty was revealed in a new way through the ancient words and ancient rites. Sometimes we simply cannot walk around the mud, or the darkness, it must be confronted with the grace that reminds us that light scatters the darkness, and even alone we are bound together.
Life, like this past spring, can be muddy, messy and a struggle; yet, with renewed love, we pull on our boots and walk into a life renewed.