Finding hope when, on the surface, everything appears to be finished.
Nature is a great teacher of hope. During the recent bushfires, I watched the fire ravage increasing areas of Australia. Seeing the countryside burn and knowing our best efforts were often not enough to stop the fires gave me a sense of hopelessness and despair. What future does our land have against such destruction? Yet, just a month after the bushfires, tiny shoots of greenery began appearing in the blackened landscape. Signs of life and growth.
Eucalyptus trees, although they may appear destroyed by the fire on the surface, have epicormic buds protected from the fire by the tree’s bark, which sprout new shoots and green foliage. Most eucalyptus species have lignotubers at the base or below the ground. These large roots contain hidden buds which, when the tree is damaged by fire, sprout new shoots enabling the plant to survive.
On the surface it appears finished, but hidden from sight, there is life waiting to rise.
As a Salvo minister, I have conducted many Easter reflections and services. Good Friday is a time of significance for Christians as we pause and remember Jesus dying on a cross. The significance is not because he was crucified, as, at that time in history, the Romans killed many people by crucifixion. It is remembered because of Jesus’ claims to be the Son of God and that his death was to give others life.
Every Good Friday I take time to think about the claims of Jesus, the meaning of his death for me, and the sorrow of the occasion. Then comes Easter Saturday. Or maybe it is just Saturday? Because nothing happens on Saturday. Saturday is the day I’m walking around the bushfire-ravaged area in the days after the fire. Death, destruction and sadness have just passed through and today … today is just a day to exist. A day to live but a day without hope. Not much good happened on Easter Saturday.
I know people for whom Easter Saturday is their Groundhog Day. The older man stuck in the cycle of addiction. The prisoner who was out for a while but finds himself once more behind bars. The addict desperate for a fix to numb the pain of life or give that ‘just one more’ high. Then there is the young person couch-surfing at a friend of a friend’s home because their ‘real home’ isn’t safe or welcoming.
These are the obvious ones who live every day as if it was Easter Saturday. Nothing to celebrate. Nothing to hope for. I know others, without such challenges, who also live life on repeat on Easter Saturday. Employed in a dead-end job and get up, go to work, come home and then do it all again tomorrow. Purpose, meaning, legacy. These are not words associated with life.
Easter Saturday is the day after the fire when hope cannot be seen. It appears finished, but hidden from sight, there is life waiting to rise. Sunday is coming.
Easter Sunday is Resurrection Sunday. A new day dawning. It is the day of new life, new beginnings and new hope. Out of the ashes of despair come the shoots of a future. Whereas Easter Saturday has no future, Easter Sunday is brimming with possibilities. Jesus has risen from the dead. And because Christ lives, I can truly live.
I know people who state that, because of Jesus’ resurrection, their addiction cycle is broken. They enjoy real freedom in or out of prison. There are addicts who have a long-lasting high while living clean. Young people, and old, who now have a family to belong to. And legacies and impact are resulting from lives lived with purpose and meaning. Hope rises with Jesus.
This Easter, take time to reflect upon the claims of Jesus, the meaning of his death and his resurrection. There is hope for our land impacted by bushfires, and there is also hope for us.
Dean Clarke is a Salvation Army minister in South Australia.