The frost has melted; the ground turned soft. The first buds of daffodils will soon appear, tender and green, in the dirt. Geese fly north. Birds sing in early dawn. Insects buzz, and new life bursts forth after a long, cold winter. Spring has sprung.
But you will not find me in its midst. I will not frolic with newborn lambs. I will not pick flowers. Instead, I will keep my windows sealed and change the filters on my HVAC with near-religious devotion. And I will spend long, ponderous hours in the aisles of my local pharmacy. I will watch the blooming flowers from behind thick glass and pray for the eschaton—the once-and-for-all return of Jesus.
You see, when the Bradford pears turn green and bloom, and men and women venture outside to admire their delicate white flowers, most pay little attention to the plume of pollen that surrounds them. This pollen smells vaguely human and offensive. It fills the air and coats cars in a fine yellow dust, making its way into my nose and mouth. My eyes begin to itch. Mucus flows in the linings of my throat, sinuses, and lungs—a feeling not unlike having a slightly overweight Labrador retriever sitting on your chest day and night.
This thing you call “spring” has another name: allergy season.
You see, the world is a cursed place, and amongst its misfortunes are “thorns and thistles.” In Kentucky where I live, milk thistle grows everywhere. It is a tall, scrubby weed, and at its tips grows an ugly, cactus-like bulb that blooms into a bright purple flower resembling a small sea anemone. It is quite beautiful—and I, of course, am catastrophically allergic to it.
This flower is the first to come to mind when I think of the curse of thorns and thistles. Touching it makes my skin itch, and while I’m not sure, I strongly suspect it’s responsible for certain pains in my lungs. Milk thistle is a great window into the nature of a cursed creation. The plant is beautiful and bears the signature of our Creator’s bottomless imagination, but it is not our friend.
In the garden, the animals came before Adam and submitted to being named by him. But today, a trip to the beach might be ruined by a stingray or a jagged seashell. Your Great Dane might eat your sofa, or a grizzly bear might ruin walks in the woods forever. Likewise, the flora of the earth has its own way of acting hostile. Pollen and spores assault our immune systems—more bane than blessing.
The cycle of winter and spring—of death and renewal, as it were—is a foretaste of a much richer (and far less cursed) renewal.
There are, however, moments of hope. A few years ago, my doctor sang the praises of a “savior” named Claritin. “At last,” he said, “they’ve done it! Claritin really works.” I’d finally be able to stop and (literally) smell the flowers.
But of course, it didn’t work. In fact, none of the pharmaceutical remedies I’ve tried over the years have delivered on their promises of redemption—not completely, anyway. Some stop the allergic reaction, but they also turn me into a narcoleptic. Others manage to cause throbbing headaches, irregular heartbeats, and restlessness—all of which make my allergies seem easy by comparison.
Jesus warned about the false promises of other saviors: “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him … For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matt. 24:23; Matt. 24:27). These words apply nicely anytime someone promises a cure-all, whether they’re selling drugs, sex, or status—anything that’s going to make us ultimately happy and healthy. These little saviors always disappoint. “Don’t believe them,” Jesus says.
When He returns and things are once-and-for-all made new, we’ll live in a world without death and disease. Either they’ll have been eradicated completely or our resurrected bodies will be impervious to such things. Whatever the case, who needs an immune system—much less an overactive one? War, oppression, and emergency doses of ineffective drugs will cease.
So if you’re like me and the lushness of spring evokes as much anxiety as awe, remember that the cycle of winter and spring—of death and renewal, as it were—is a foretaste of a much richer (and far less cursed) renewal. We might call the blooming flowers signs of the “already” and the nightly routine of medicine a sign of the “not yet.”
Until that fine day, I’ll continue on. As long as winters end and springs return, when the magnolias bloom and it’s time to rototill the garden, when the squirrels re-emerge and the nights grow short, you’ll find me staring longingly out the window—both happy and sad—sighing quietly, “Come, Lord Jesus.”