Sunday was the final round of the Masters golf tournament, and it was an especially good day because I got to see it again with my father. Watching that particular tournament on television was something I always used to love as a kid. Not only did it make for some good quality time with my dad, but it also heralded the beginning of a new year for golf. It’s always the first major tournament each year, and it is held in early spring when the azaleas are in full bloom. The Augusta National Golf Club is where the Masters calls home, and you don’t even have to like golf to appreciate the beauty of that place. It’s always manicured perfectly; There’s never as much as a pinecone out of place. The millions of flowers are like miniature trumpeteers announcing that winter is finally over, and the earth has emerged from death into the springtime of new life.
In less than a week’s time my family will celebrate another transition from death to life, indeed the ultimate example of such. Easter Sunday is just a few days away, and for us this signifies that death, no matter what form it may take, is now… Dead. This is a season of life! The old has passed away, and the new has come!
It’s a counterintuitive idea that life follows after death. On the surface of things it would seem to be the opposite. Things live first until they die, right? Pretty simple. It’s sort of the way things have always worked. But this is not necessarily so.
In Jesus’ time on earth he often taught that in order to find life, in many ways we must first die. “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” In order to experience life in all its fullness, we must let go of all that chokes out true life in order that it might be made new. Sometimes things need to die so that they can be renewed. Death, then, actually becomes the engine of life. An up-cycling, of sorts.
I once saw an interview with Bono, the frontman of the rock band U2. He was telling a story about his conversation with a friend who happened to be a priest. Bono asked him, “What’s the most useful thing you’ve done in your life?” and the priest gave an amazing answer. He said that taking confession was one of the most fulfilling experiences of his life, because he was able to see people drop their burdens and live more fully. That when they finally let go of that which constricted them, they left walking taller, laughing more, breathing more deeply, and noticing more of their surroundings. They were not only emotionally and spiritually changed, but also physically changed. They left walking with a new swagger. He could see them transition from winter to spring.
My prayer for you and I this Easter season is that we would be able to release all of that which holds us back. That we would be able to let that stuff die. That our withering branches might be pruned in order to make way for the full canopy of life that we are meant to experience. That whatever hinderances we’re still clinging to, we might let them go so that our arms are free to embrace the true life that is to follow. We are greatly loved. God is in the process of renewing it all. Let’s quit hanging on to dead branches, and may our lives be as full as the azaleas of spring.
–From Matt Thames