These words, attributed to Albert Camus, the Algerian-born French philosopher, author, journalist, and recipient of the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize in Literature, have seen me through many a ‘harsh winter.’
I first read them on a small scroll hanging in a bookstore, and since the scroll was for sale, I bought it and nailed it on the wall across from my bed so I could see it first thing each morning and the last thing every night. That was fifty years ago, during one of the harshest winters I can remember.
Albert Camus was not a Christian, though he studied Christianity extensively in graduate school. What wonderful irony that his words, whether he intended them to be interpreted this way or not, remind us of the inherent connection between the Harshest Winter, Good Friday, and the Invincible Spring, Easter.
We are at the outset of the fifty-day season of Easter, as my dear colleague Katherine Bush reminds us in her latest thought-provoking blog about believing impossible things.
Katherine invites us ‘to practice believing impossible things for fifty days, which is about how long it takes to develop a new habit.’
I don’t know how many multiples of fifty days I practiced saying the harshest winter finds in us (me) an invincible spring, but that sentence has pitched a tent in my brain, helping me to believe that resurrection and renewal can spring from what seems dead, often in the most unbelievable circumstances.
In my backyard, there is a Chinese Fringe tree that we planted almost fifty years ago. A tiny sapling at the time, she has grown into a magnificent beauty, with long sturdy branches that burst forth every spring with glorious white clusters of blooms that take my breath away.
This spring, after one of our weirdest, most unpredictable winters, I feared that the tree had fallen victim to the unexpectedly harsh night freezes. By early April, when the first green shoots usually appear, there were no signs of life. I stroked the branches, talked to the tree, and said a prayer that she would survive. And waited.
Nothing happened for weeks. Then one morning, I noticed a few green shoots making their way into the sunshine, and as I write this, the formerly brittle little branches are surging with new life, about to burst into bloom. This may be the most beautiful spring the tree has ever lived through.
Next time you face a harsh winter, remember that acknowledging our vulnerability, fearfulness, and powerlessness are often the very things that make us more eligible than we have ever been to receive the gift of hope and life. It took me many Lents, Good Fridays, and Easters to know that…and still, I am learning.
Christ is risen, friends. Out of our harshest winters our Risen Lord comes, making all things new through the Invincible Power of Love. Practice believing that and see what happens.