March 10, 2014


It usually begins with light—when a warm shaft of late afternoon briefly discovers the narrow pane that passes for a window at the top of my office wall. Had I the courage, I would make a mark on the off-white Sheetrock to note the angle where sunlight first penetrates my gray interior each March—a sundial of sorts to help me track the seasons. The familiar bookshelves fleetingly glow with amber, reminding me of the wide, warm world outside. And I draw a breath rich with memory and grace from more than 40 years ago. It is spring again—sunlit, blessed spring again—in the season and in the soul.

Somewhere, far from Silver Spring, creamy white bloodroot blossoms and yellow adder’s-tongues are poking through the fallen leaves on the south-facing bank of a middling Yankee stream. The earliest of the early robins strut and pose among the mosses and the fiddleheads, listening for the stirrings in the warming soil. I loiter by the creek, wrapped in the sound of moving water and all the inarticulate but reassuring noises that witness to the resurrection of the earth. This is a sacred space: this is a sanctuary. None may enter here save the consecrated, the baptized.

6 1 2 3I still keep within arm’s reach that much-underlined copy of the Living New Testament I read beside that waterfall when I was young, knowing I will need reminders of hopeful, forward-leaning hours on days dull with committees. Memory—holy memory—traces the lines that stirred a teenager’s heart for God: “He was before all else began and it is his power that holds everything together” (Col. 1:17, TLB).* “Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him. See that you go on growing in the Lord, and become strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with joy and thanksgiving for all he has done” (Col. 2:7, TLB).

In such words and images we relearn the confidence that once was ours—in Christ, in His life-giving power, in resurrection after years ill-spent in January and jaundice. Beside such streams we touch the memories of baptism and rebirth, glad that our decades of mistakes and sins are being quietly carried to the depths of some far-distant ocean. Who doesn’t need a springtime of the soul, at whatever moment in the calendar? Whose life with God is so consistently alive that it requires no quickening? “Revive me” is the cry of every heart in which the Spirit moves. “Renew me” is the song we sing, with oft-repeating chorus.

This is why the church needs testimonies—because the testifiers need that holy moment of recalling “the providences of God.” We stand to speak, we say, for the sake of others, for the encouragement we think our story brings to other blighted lives. But then we find—in grace, through grace—that we are those most blessed by what we’ve said. Our memories of conversion prove to be the streambeds in which the Spirit’s waters flow again, and we are brought back happily to riverbank encounters with the Lord we pledged to follow. “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High” (Ps. 46:4, KJV).

Your sacred place, the holy memory of when you gave yourself to Jesus, is worth visiting and retelling, and not only in sunlight or in springtime. Whether you have walked with Jesus 40 years or only 40 days, “re-mind” yourself of when you gave your life to Him. Retell the story, preferably to someone younger in the faith, and find your own heart “strangely warmed,” whatever the weather or the season.

Don’t let another Sabbath pass without revisiting the story of your springtime. Tell someone else where flowers grow, where robins sing, where you were healed in holy joy. This is the duty that you owe—to others, and to your life with Christ.

* Verses marked TLB are taken from The Living Bible, copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, Ill. Used by permission.