I love that life is seasonal. As a child I was always excited by the sense of new beginnings that every season brought, but most of all, I loved the springtime and I still do. I never tire of watching things come to life, of dreary colours giving way to fresh green and delicate blossom, of birds singing and days getting longer, darkness giving way to light.
I’ve been out and about this year as late winter is changing to spring and have noticed more than ever the early signs of the season changing. Some of the hardier shrubs have already sprouted tentative leaves and it seems as if every bud is about to burst in the sunshine.
As I was jogging along the cycleway near my home the other week I started thinking about the buds I was seeing. Although I am a biologist, leaf buds have never figured highly on any course I have studied, so I was mulling over what I thought I knew when a bible verse came to mind.
And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
To be honest, I’ve never really understood that verse fully. Why would you put new things in a storehouse and then bring them straight out again? I have heard it said that the ‘new’ things have simply been stored away more recently than the ‘old’ things, but that doesn’t fit with the fact that the Greek word for ‘new’ in the verse is kainos which means ‘new in kind, different to what previously existed, brand new’. It’s as if the ‘new’ things from the store house didn’t exist before they were brought out.
Googling leaf buds helped. Leaf buds are the hiding places for tiny leaves which were formed in the late summer and early autumn of the previous year. The new leaves emerge because the tiny stem they are attached to begins to grow so they burst through the covering of the bud. This whole process happens millions of times over every year and we never really give it any thought but what is going on is truly amazing!
In order to make new cells for the growth of the stem, the plant needs energy. Normally, to produce glucose to release this energy, plants photosynthesise, but they can’t photosynthesise without leaves so this initial energy source comes from what was stored in the previous year. Reserves of starch which were laid down in the previous season are broken down and used to build new cells so brand new leaves can grow. What is bursting out of the leaf bud is brand new but built from that which was stored in the previous season – what is old and what is new at the same time.
Springtime often makes us think about new beginnings, but fresh starts usually have a history. It is good to draw a line, but also good to recognise that we wouldn’t be where we are without the story we have lived and the path we have walked. The ‘old’ stuff in our lives often needs breaking down so it can be rebuilt into a brand new, different form, and the beginning of the transition may seem slow and even painful, but the life which comes forth as we allow the old to be transformed into new is self-sustaining and glorious. Without the old things in the storehouse, the new can’t come, but it we hold onto the old in its existing form the new can’t come either.
The folk song ‘Morning has Broken’ by Cat Stevens was probably overdone when people of my generation were in primary school, but its lyrics are quite profound and I confess to really liking them:
Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day
God is into recreating, redeeming and restoring and I am enjoying the signs of spring all around, excited about all the new season will bring.