The dark side of new life

A friend was telling me the other day that soon after an agave flowers, the plant dies. I noticed this one on a walk yesterday, and I was in awe of all the energy this plant must be giving to create the next generation. It reminded me of My Octopus Teacher, a Netflix doco following the life of an octopus through to her last days when she lays a nest full of eggs and gives into death (a tear-jerker for sure!). It got me wondering how many other animals and plants experience a self-sacrificing death in order to provide the beautiful gift of new life? 

It’s not lost one me that today is Good Friday, a day in the Christian church calendar where we remember the final moments of Jesus’s life and his crucifixion. A central example in the Christian faith of the way that death brings about new life, for after his death we will enter into Easter Sunday, when the church celebrates Jesus’ resurrection, and the new life which humanity and all of creation can and will experience as a result of his self-sacrificing death.

I can only imagine that Jesus’s death was an experience of profound suffering. Yet, just like we can’t have a next generation of agave plants, or octopuses without loss, we can’t have Christ’s resurrection without His death…and the waiting in the darkness and uncertainty of Easter Saturday in between. All that to say, willingly entering into suffering and death is ultimately a risk because we don’t know the final outcome. Does the plant know for sure that her seeds are going to produce healthy new seedlings? Does the octopus know for sure that her eggs are going to produce healthy, strong, baby octopuses? Did Jesus know for sure that his death was going to result in his resurrection and the redemption of the world he loved? With a story as familiar as this one is, it is easy to think that he surely knew the outcome, however considering the agony he felt in the Garden of Gethsemane sometimes I do find myself wondering what that “knowing” was like. Did he really know for sure or did he, to some extent, feel the risk? 

Whether you look at the agave, the octopus, or Christ, I sense that in the risk of surrendering to death there also exists a deep hope and expectation for new life. Death gives birth to new life. But lets be honest, we don’t always know what that new life will look like! Sure we can look at the agave plant and octopus and know that the new life to come will look similar to what came before, but more often than not in our own circumstances we have uncertainty as to what new life will look like as we enter into suffering and death. 

In my own life, being willing to surrender to the reality of infertility was a risk. Letting go of my dreams of being a mother, of having the family that I’d planned with my husband, and of imagining what our biological children would look like, was a deeply painful process. It was a death. There is no other way to describe it. There was no clear vision for what life on the other side would look like. It was an act of trust and hope in God alone, knowing that I had nothing within me to produce new life. And there was a lot of waiting!! Yet the new life which slowly grew, and continues to grow, is more beautiful than I could have ever expected. 

As you journey through this Good Friday, as you wait in the darkness of Easter Saturday, in what ways are you facing the reality of suffering and death in your life? It’s a risk to acknowledge these realities. It’s painful and vulnerable to face these realities. Maybe you’re not ready now, but when you are, consider the agave plant, the octopus, and most importantly Jesus who embraces death with you and for you so that you can experience new life. It is a risk, and the potential new life to come does not minimize the excruciating pain of suffering, but just know that you are not alone, and new life does await you on the other side. 

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