My Fall
The (Almost) Perfect Poet: A Review of "Swan," by Mary Oliver

Plotting the Resurrection

As the years went by and age overtook her, there was something comical yet touching in her bedraggled appearance on this awesome occasion --- the small, hunched-over figure, her studied absorption in the implausible notion that there would be yet another spring, oblivious to the ending of her own days, which she knew perfectly well was near at hand, sitting there with her detailed chart under those dark skies in the dying October, calmly plotting the resurrection.

(E.B. White, from the Introduction to Onward and Upward In the Garden, by Katharine S. White)

E.B. White, author of Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and countless columns for The New Yorker, wrote this essay about his wife's annual late October planting of bulbs in her garden in what was, at this point, perhaps her last such planting.  I love that phrase, "plotting the resurrection," as it suggests the posture believers are encouraged to have in life: faithful, continued perseverance in our usual work, unto God, with hope for its ultimate meaning.

I work each day in a rather nondescript 1960s era building, fashionable perhaps in that time but uninteresting now.  I walk up two flights to my office.  I turn on the light. I hang up my coat. I sit down and sign into my computer. I listen to messages.  I read emails. I make phone calls.  I answer emails.  I write.  I read.  I move paper and files from one box to another.  I discuss.  Sometimes, I disagree.  I wait.  I make more phone calls.  At 5:30, I log out of the computer, rise, put on my coat, turn off the light, close the door, walk down the two flights of steps, and wave at the guard as I walk out the door.  

Tomorrow, I'll do it all again.

This is the quotidian, that which occurs everyday.  The ordinary.  Viewed apart from the resurrection, the drudgery of it, the ceaseless repetition, would weigh heavy on me, a sense of uselessness and meaninglessness rising up in me, creating cynicism, a lackadaisical attitude, and even despair.  And yet for the Christian, the most mundane of work is offered up to God and will be taken up by God and transformed in some as yet unknown way.  A continuity exists between the work we do here and the work we do in Heaven.  What we do now really means something, tainted though it may be by sin, weighed down by the travail of Creation.

In 1 Corinthians 3:13 Paul looks ahead to Heaven and sees that on that Day "each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it. . . ."  The Colossians are told "[w]hatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. . . ."  Work, no matter how mundane, is what we do, what we are made to do, and God uniquely equipped us for certain work or works that we do.  And, ultimately, he will sanctify that work, carrying forward all that is good in it to a recreated heavens and earth, to a New Creation.

That's why an old lady plants bulbs in the cold soil of October, just like she always has, year after year, believing that there will be a Spring of new life.  That's why I've engaged in a 26-year routine of faithfulness to a work that will go on in all that is good.  I'm not just plotting the resurrection --- I'm betting on it.