My grandparents always planted their garden on Good Friday. I never asked why. It was just one of those things like the Frigidaire or the chester drawers. I was grown before I realized that it was pronounced “frigid air” and was a brand name, not a synonym for refrigerator. I’ll blame the prevalent Southern drawl for converting “chest of” to chester, but again, it took years to sink into my thick head. My understanding of the Good Friday planting has arrived more belatedly still. It dawned on me as I was planting my garden this year. As I dropped the seeds into the ground, covered them, patted down the dirt, and wondered how long it would be before they sprouted, the proverbial light bulb snapped on over my head. Of course! The seeds were being buried to rise again. I was proud of myself for figuring this out until it sunk in that it had taken me over half a century to do so. I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed.
When someone asked St. Paul to explain resurrection he said, “We have a parallel experience in gardening. You plant a ‘dead’ seed, and soon there is a flourishing plant. There is no visual likeness between seed and plant. You could never guess what a tomato would look like by looking at a tomato seed…You get a hint at the diversity of resurrection glory by looking at the diversity of bodies not only on earth but in the skies – sun, moon, stars – all these varieties of beauty and brightness. And we’re only looking at pre-resurrection ‘seeds’—who can imagine what the resurrection ‘plants’ will be like?” [from 1 Corinthians 15, The Message translation]
Beyond the seasonal life and death cycle of my plants, there is a daily hint for this mystery as well. Every night I die to consciousness and rise from sleep the next morning. During a significant portion of my life, I am completely unaware of my own existence. I literally provide a visual aid for resurrection every day. Not to get all new-agey about it, but if there is no context for an answer in our known experience, maybe spiritual awareness is superior to rational arguments when it comes to finding the truth. Who can imagine? What lies beyond may even be superior to homegrown tomatoes and okra. Wow.