In the Living Bible, the Song of Solomon stanza two, verses 10 to 13 reads: “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For the winter is past, [it’s] over and gone. The flowers are springing up and the time of the singing of the birds has come. Yes, spring is here! The leaves are coming out and the grape vines are in blossom. How delicious they smell! Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.”
March is the month when, alas, at last, Springtime arrives. I was born and brought up in western Canada where, as a boy, I saw the snow blizzards bury a mile-long freight train for 33 days. My father came in out of the cold one deep-freeze morning and announced that the temperature was 51 below zero. Mid-winter snow storms were so dense, and the darkness so intense, that often it felt like we were huddled in an Arctic cave.
Then one enchanted day the radio would play “When it’s springtime in the Rockies,” announcing that a Spring Shinook was racing through the mountain passes and across the prairies, turning large banks of snow into roaring streams and creeks. In terms of relief, it was only just short of the armistice that ended World War II.
From the huddling under thick quilts by night and by day, shivering before a kitchen cookstove, we were suddenly catapulted into the thrilling digging of rushing drains, wearing long rubber boots; skygazing at the returning wild geese, as they honked in symphony overhead.
Then in quick succession there’d be the de-hibernating gophers and badgers, daringly poking their heads from their holes in the hillsides; the birthing of the calves and colts; the day-dawn songs of meadowlarks, and that “red-red robin come bob-bob-bobbin along.” Through the clods, crocuses would break forth, then bursting buttercups, and pussy willows, and the pioneering blades of green, green grass.
It was, as Emily Bronte wrote: “Cold and snow from those brown hills melted into spring.”
And out would come the family Bible to remind us of God’s promise to Noah that “as long as the earth remains, there will be springtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night.”
Oh I know, as Henry Van Dyke observed in “Fisherman’s Luck,” that “the first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another.” Mark Twain tweaked the New Englanders that during their “spring [he had] counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of twenty-four hours.” But however, it comes, or whenever, there’s no argument about the Powers of Springtime.
Who can ever forget the moving nostalgia of James Bland’s “Carry me back to old Virginny, There’s where the cotton and the corn and taters grow, There’s where the birds warble sweet in the Springtime.” So one of those powers of springtime is love of home.
And another is the love of romance. Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote that it’s “in the spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love”; and Shakespeare in “As You Like It” twitted: “In the springtime, the only pretty ring time: when birds do sing, hey ding-a-ding; sweet lovers love the spring.”
Of course, it was when “spring is here” that the Song of Solomon implored: “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Jean Stafford lyricized of a lovelorn teenager: “Her own heart shaped exactly like a valentine … palpitating [with] the fragrance of all the flowery springtime love.”
Whoever could be unmoved by the pictures with which the media have flooded us of lovers Avital and Anatoli Scharansky? “This Year in Jerusalem” — Anatoli holding aloft the Book of Psalms he had clung to for a decade in the Soviet Gulag. His favorite psalm is the 133rd: “How good it is [to] live together [in love]. It is like the dew of Hermon falling upon the hills of Zion. There the Lord bestows the blessing, life forevermore.” What a springtime!
Secondly, there are the Plowers of Springtime. For seeding to take place down on the farm, the ground in the Spring had to be plowed open. The Lord’s call through His prophet was: “Plow up the fallow ground” for “My people have rebellious hearts; they have turned against Me, and gone off into idolatry. Though I AM the One who gives them … spring (and) harvest (they show no) fear for Me. And so I have taken away these wondrous blessings from them. (Their) sin has robbed them of all these good things” (cf., Jeremiah 5:23,24). If you have rebellion, hate, lust or greed in your life: let God’s springtime plow break up your fallow ground.
It was: “in the spring (at) the time when Kings go forth to war” (2 Samuel 11:1), that King David succumbed to his compounding sins of adultery with Bathsheba, the murder of Uriah and the impaling of his family on the sword that would not depart from his house. Warned Shakespeare in Henry VI: “Now ’tis the spring and weeds are shallow rooted; suffer them now and they’ll overgrow the garden.”
If you confess your sins and then as Moses wrote “carefully obey all of His commandments (and) love the Lord your God with all your hearts and souls, and will worship Him, then He will … send … spring rains that will produce wonderful crops … and you yourselves shall have plenty” (cf., Deut. 11:13, 14).
A. C. Swinburne wrote in the wake of the Civil War: “Winter’s [snows and sins] are over: Blossom by blossom the spring begins.” The Hebrew Prophet Joel (2:23) exclaimed: “Rejoice, O people [in] the Lord your God! For the … spring … He sends [is His signal] of forgiveness.”
I’ve known composer Kurt Kaiser since we were teenagers. So his song, sung around the world, is doubly meaningful to me:
When in the spring the flowers are blooming bright and fair
After the gray of winter’s gone,
I will tell the world that wondrous story
Of the stream that flowed from Calvary.
Lord, to my heart bring back the springtime
Take away the cold and dark of sin.
Oh, return to me, sweet Holy Spirit,
May I warm and tender be again.
Thirdly, there are the Showers of Springtime. Our Lord is King. “His favour is like a raincloud in spring,” (Proverbs 16:15) wrote Solomon. Invited Prophet Zechariah (10:1), “Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime, and He will answer with lightning and showers. Every field will become a lush pasture.”
If your life is a dried-up desert, a withering wilderness, reach up in faith to the Lord in prayer for His springtime showers of blessing. Assured Job, “(The Lord) caused the dayspring to know His place; that it might take hold of the ends of the earth.” The Lord’s provision, wrote Jeremiah (2:73) is “springs of living water.” Yes, assured Isaiah (58:11), He’s “like a spring whose waters never fail.”
Reckoned T. S. Eliot in “The Wasteland”: “Lilacs out of the dead land stirring dull roots with spring rain”; and Margaret Elizabeth Sangster: “Never yet was a springtime, when the buds forgot to blow.”
But it takes watering: otherwise springtime is no springtime. “Be patient,” exhorted the Apostle James (5:7) always aware that “the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, and how patient he is for the fall and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”
The world was jolted by the political crises in the Philippines. A friend who knew Nino [Benigno] Aquino, the late husband of Cory Aquino, tells us that when Nino was doing work at Harvard, prior to his return to the Philippines and what many called his martyrdom, he encountered through Chuck Colson’s Born Again a wonderful experience of Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour.
When my friend pled with him not to go back to the Philippines, for fear of being assassinated, he responded simply “I must go back. Jesus Christ won His greatest victory in His death. And perhaps that will be my story … only God knows!”
Which leads us finally to affirm, not only the powers, the plowers, and the showers of springtime, but the Flowers of Springtime.
Walt Whitman observed how “Lilacs last in the dooryard bloomed … with ever-returning spring.” Perhaps you’re just rising to your flowerings to your best years. It’s life’s springtime! Invest your life, don’t spend it. In the words of Isaiah (45:8): “Let salvation spring up” — through you, and out to the world around.
Homer wrote 2,700 years ago that “a generation of men is (like when) the season of spring comes on. So of men one generation springs forth and another ceases.”
Seize every opportunity — in word and in work — evangelistically and socially, to witness for the Christ you love. You only come this way once. Otherwise, all too soon you’ll lament as did Edward Fitzgerald “that spring should vanish with the Rose! That youth’s sweet-scented manuscript should close!”
Samuel Butler let go his life too cheap, only to opine: “Youth is like spring: an overpraised season.” Observed Thomas Hardgrin: “Autumn in Kings Hintock Park, an old woman now, raking up leaves here by the baring bough, raking up leaves; often I ponder how: springtime deceives.”
What a waste, when we think of Jesus’ word to the woman of Samaria: “People soon become thirsty again after drinking this (well) water. But the water I give them becomes a perpetual spring within them, watering them forever with eternal life” (John 4:13, 14).
Even now Astronaut Ron McNair, who went up in the ill-fated Challenger, is flowering in the perpetual spring garden of eternal life. Before launch he had said of his Friend Jesus: “Jesus and I will be going up together.” And they did! And with him gone, President Reagan eulogized: “We know in our hearts that you … now make your home beyond the stars, safe in God’s promise of eternal life.”
Years ago Billy Graham came to Toronto to preach the funeral sermon of our founding pastor, 96-year-old Dr. Oswald J. Smith. George Beverly Shea came to sing his songs. One of Dr. Smith’s 1,200 songs goes:
After the winter so cold and so drear
Cometh the springtime with gladness and cheer.
After the shadows have all passed away
Sunshine will follow in God’s perfect day.
From a long Wintertime on earth, Dr. Smith has gone to his long home in that eternal springtime of heaven.
You perhaps yearn and long for a spiritual springtime in your life. You can be born again by praying from your heart to Christ: “God be merciful to me a sinner, and receive me, Lord Jesus Christ, now and forever!” And yours will be a spiritual springtime!