“You are right to be glad in His April days while He gives them. Every stage of the heavenly growth in us is lovely to Him. He is the God of the daisies and the lambs and the merry child hearts! It may be that no such path of loss lies before you; there are people like the lands where spring and summer weave the year between them, and the autumn processes are hardly noticed as they come and go. The one thing is to keep obedient in spirit, then you will be ready to let the flower-time pass if He bids you, when the sun of his love has worked some more ripening. You will feel by then that to try to keep the withering blossoms would be to cramp and ruin your soul. It is loss to keep when God says ‘give.'” Parables of the Cross
Such a beautiful autumn day! I sit on a rocking chair and savor the view from our front porch: blooms of purple, red, magenta, pink – bush and border, arbor and window box – a kaleidescope of color. Butterflies flutter above lantana lured by their blossoms of yellow and orange. White billowy clouds scuttle across a china blue sky. A bright red cardinal darts from tree to fence to tree. The air is alive with bird song and the peck, peck, pecking of – a woodpecker! My heart fairly bursts with the joy of it all. October in Florida.
And my heart fills with gratitude for the dear clapboard cottage that shelters us, fitted with furnishings from our past homes, augmented now with treasured objects from parents and grandparents. Photographs and paintings and pictures mix with objects of sentiment – artifacts of family and friends. Just “things,” yes, but things rich with heritage and memories – bridges connecting us to people and places ever dear to us.
I ask: do these things mean too much to me? Is it “right” to care so much for what, at best, is transient? I remember asking that same question several decades ago. We had just moved into an old manse newly refurbished by the church. I would walk though the large rooms with high ceilings, hardword floors, walls and trim freshly painted in my colors, I would savor my view of pond and park and live oak trees – and wonder: Is it right to love it so completely? It didn’t help that at that very time I was working my way through Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison!
It was from those same letters, as it turned out, that I was given a perspective that informed me then – and now. His parents wrote to him, during the Christmas season, expressing their angst in celebrating the season knowing that he was living in such miserable conditions. He responded: “We ought to find and love God in what He actually gives us; if it pleases Him to allow us to enjoy some overwhelming earthly happiness, we mustn’t try to be more pious than God Himself and allow happiness to be corrupted by presumption and arrogance, and by unbridled religious fantasy which is never satisfied with what God gives. God will see to it that the man who finds Him in his earthly happiness and thanks Him for it does not lack reminder that earthly things are transient, that it is good for him to attune his heart to what is eternal, and that sooner or later there will be times when he can say in all sincerity,’I wish I were home.’ But everything has its time, and the main thing is that we keep in step with God.”
I believe that this is what Lilias meant, in essence, when she wrote of being “glad in His April days.” She was speaking of the Christian life in its totality. She observes that it seems that, for some, the April days are seamless – “where spring and summer weave the year between them, and the autumn processes are hardly noticed as they come and go.” Her advice, as was Bonhoeffer’s decades later, that we should enjoy them “while He gives them.” After all, “He is the God of the daisies and the lambs and the merry child hearts!” (And I might add – of birds and butterflies and bright blooming flowers!) April days, notwithstanding, “The one thing is to keep obedient in spirit” or, in Bonhoeffer words, “the main thing is that we keep in step with God.” Obedience. To “be ready to let the flower-time pass if He bids” us. . . .
In reality, most of us do experience winter – January days, figuratively speaking – sometimes for long stretches of time, with only a sprinkling of April days to brighten the spirit atmosphere. And it may be the memory of “flower times” past that sustains us, that gives us hope for better days to come.
Back to my rooms, my views… my April day in October. It is “right to be glad in His April days while He gives them” – be it a succession of days, a short April season, or an April moment. But I must hold lightly these very things that gladden my heart, today. I must embrace them as He intended: pointers to God, a glimpse of glory, a preview of Heaven!
This is the day the Lord hath made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Painting: Diary, 1906