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  • Marnie Hammar

We Can't Welcome Spring Without the Soil



It never fails. When spring offers its long-awaited warmer temps and my boys burst outside, slopping through the softening gunk and mud, I run to my sliding doors, and I lock them out.

Then begins my ritual of strategically placing giant towels in front of doors to attempt to contain their mud-caked re-entry.


Every year, I lament: Ah, spring…how I have longed for you…and yet, not what you bring. I love what you become. Just not how you get there.


But last week, when my second grader and I were planting flowers in pots on our deck, he challenged my thinking. As we poured the soft, loose potting soil, he launched into a biology lesson.


“Mom, did you know this is like food for plants? It helps them get strong?”

I said, “Yeah, buddy. That’s why we buy potting soil, right? To give plants what they need?”

He said, “Yeah, Mom. Cuz dirt is dead.”


My brain paused on his simple, profound statement: Dirt is dead. Dirt can’t grow anything. Dirt is a mess without purpose.


But this soil we gently place in these terra-cotta pots? This, we need. Because in this soil, the growing begins.


I’ve been thinking about this season backwards. I want the green, the lovely, the new…just not the messy part. But I’ve overlooked a simple truth: To welcome spring, we need the soil.


My husband and I are currently enduring a time of wearying testing in our family. We’re tired. Even as I write this, we don’t know when or how this very trying season will end.


And honestly? I just want to sit in the dirt and be mad for awhile. I feel a bit buried under blackened layers of confusion and frustration and hurt. This is happening not because of my husband’s or my own choices, but because of circumstances outside our control and it feels unfair. I want to whine and complain and point fingers. We didn’t ask for this dirt.


I know you know what that feels like. Often, when we find ourselves in a filthy pit, we aren’t there because we wanted to crawl into it. We didn’t ask for this betrayal, this diagnosis, this layoff. We didn’t ask for this loss, this grief, this pain. We have no desire to grow from THIS.


But.

I also don’t want to stay stuck here.

I don’t want to be mad at God.

I don’t want the bitter to take root.

I don’t want to be buried in dead, lifeless dirt.


That day on the deck, after we finished potting the plants, my second grader and I Googled, “Can dirt become soil?” Google’s unemotional answer was: “When you add fertilizer and compost or manure, dirt can be changed into soil.”


I don’t have to actually like the crud I’m facing. I don’t have to put pretty bows on it. But if I offer up this dirt — and yes, this manure — and allow God to be part of it, He can transform it. Even in my confusion and frustration, I don’t have to allow the mess to separate me from God. I can choose to stay rooted and grow from places I don’t want to be.


Hardship and pain and dirt attached themselves to humanity when Adam and Eve walked out of the glorious, perfect garden to work the dusty, resistant land. This contrast, between the beauty of life and the ugly of dirt, clings to us still from its beginning then. But in Revelation 21:4-5a, as God names our earthly difficulties, He promises hope: “There will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things will be gone forever. And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’” (NLT)


I confess, I’m still struggling through this trial. I still don’t like how spring becomes spring. But these verses soothe, because they tell me that God knows this hard stuff hurts, and one day, He will bring an end to it.


While we wait, He offers undeniable evidence of this hope in this season called spring. Every year, we welcome this season that shamelessly and untiringly transforms the lifeless to living. From discarded to new.


What I’ve learned through my second grader is that we can only know the full hope of new life when we embrace both parts of spring. To fully understand and appreciate the depth and the beauty of growth’s blooms, we must also appreciate the intentional, messy emergence from the soil that grew them.

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