When we think of spring, we often think of all things bright and beautiful. We imagine the sweet smell of the warming earth and the sound of a bird’s melodious song. We dream about blooming flowers, tulips, trilliums and the like. Yet there is another early riser that gets a jump on most plants each year, often forcing its way through stubborn snow banks before anyone else. It’s the skunk cabbage.
The skunk cabbage is an aptly named flowering plant that quite literally stinks, giving off a rotting odor to attract flies and beetles that will pollinate its tiny and petal-less flowers. As I mentioned above, the plant will actually make its own way through the snow, literally heating the ground around it to temperatures as high as 70 degrees to make room for growth. Though they lose their leaves each fall, these plants can live up to 20 years, two decades to unceremoniously greet the warming northern hemisphere and the arrival of spring.
I have come to admire the skunk cabbage, not so much because of the smell or its rather bizarre and eerie appearance. Rather, I have come to appreciate it because of its determination, its drive to grow, and not letting snow, ice, or cold stop it from bursting forth onto the swampy forest floor for another season of growth.
It is a powerful reminder for me of the promise of Easter. Jesus bursting forth from the tomb, not letting our sin and brokenness, not letting death stop him. Jesus makes his own way back to us. Though we would choose separation and estrangement from God, and try to kill God, Jesus comes to us once more. After taking all we could muster against him, Jesus brings life anew.
The skunk cabbage is also a reminder of what resurrection can often look like. Beauty and goodness isn’t always as pristine or tidy as we might imagine. Resurrection might be a little rough around the edges or come in ways we don’t expect. Perhaps it’s like a recovering alcoholic who has a new and compelling authenticity about them. Or it might be a loving blended family forged from the brokenness of previous relationships and deep hurts. After all, it’s worth remembering that even the risen Jesus still bore the scars of his crucifixion. Resurrection doesn’t have to be pretty to be beautiful.
It’s a good reminder for us as we wait for that final resurrection morning, that day when all is made new. Resurrection in the here and now isn’t always Easter lilies and white linens. It isn’t always spotless and pristine. After all, spring has a lot of mud and slush too. Yet no matter what it looks like, it is a sure sign that new life is on its way. It may not always be pretty, but it sure is beautiful.
Editor’s note: Pastor Charles (CJ) Boettcher, who serves a couple of congregations south of the Twin Cities near Cannon Falls and Red Wing, wrote this piece. Pastor Rod Anderson, who is on the EPLN board of directors, approached Boettcher about reprinting it after reading it in the Cannon Falls Beacon.
According to Anderson, “This April 27 article is reprinted with permission from the author and my hometown newspaper, the Cannon Beacon, which was founded in 1876. We are fortunate that the Beacon continues serving the community including many with hometown roots. I hope you enjoy and appreciate as I did.”
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