A Wild & Precious Easter

"Mangrove tree inside Snipes Point near Key West," Florida Memory, Wikimedia Commons

“Mangrove tree inside Snipes Point near Key West,” Florida Memory, Wikimedia Commons

I had the opportunity to go on a much-needed vacation a few years ago with my husband to sunny Key West. Because he had looked forward to this for weeks, he immediately wanted to book some excursions. We settled on a jet ski tour around the island and a boat trip that included snorkeling in the middle of the ocean. After nearly drowning in the ocean when I was 12, I was less than enthused about these choices, but I try to live by Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice to “do one thing everyday that scares you.”

I was even less enthused the next day when I realized we had hired a speed demon for a jet ski instructor who used words like “gnarly” and “rad” far too much. My options were to go between 45-50 mph and risked being flayed by the water if I fell off, or lose sight of the guide and wander aimlessly off the coast. While I like a bit of adventure, these are not my idea of good choices.

During one of the rare times he stopped to give us information about the island, he told us about the mangrove islands off the coast that we were about to fly past and barely see at breakneck speeds. He said that mangroves aren’t actually saltwater plants. So how do they live in saltwater? They send a sacrificial leaf down to soak up all the salt. While this leaf withers and dies, the rest of the plant remains hearty and healthy.

I was just about to ask another question when he revved up his engine and rocketed away, and the moment passed. Later, I thought of this plant and how timely it is to learn this lesson the week before Easter. Throughout Lent, we have given up bad habits or taken on spiritual practices in the hopes of reconnecting with the very core of our faith in God, and perhaps to learn something about ourselves.

What is our sacrificial leaf? What have we had to give up so that we could flourish in our lives and our calling? Isn’t that a bit like taking up our cross, as Jesus bid us to do? Well, in order to make it to the end of that terrifying jet ski tour, I had to give up fear. Instead of thinking about the sickening sound my body would make hitting the water at high speeds, I tried to focus on the wind in my hair, the color of the water, and the uniqueness of the moment. I realized would never be in this situation were I in control. Control can be both good and bad; we can surround ourselves with things that comfort us, but we may miss a lot of great experiences.

Our God is a great one who defeated death. Jesus flipped our world on its end when he showed that the evil power of a corrupt Roman ruler wouldn’t have the last say. Nothing is safe. The order of things has been upended. C.S. Lewis put it best in his The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe when the children are nervous about meeting the Christ-like character of the lion, Aslan. Susan says, “Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” Mr. Beaver replies, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

In a world where anything can happen, we aren’t really in control, and we follow a God who can defeat death itself, what does Easter mean? In this celebration of our risen Lord, I think we should all ask ourselves what our place is in this world. If we take up our cross, shed our sacrificial leaf, and lean into God’s call, what could we do? What will we do?

As the great poet Mary Oliver asked, “Tell me, what will you do with your one wild and precious life?”

Laura at ordinationLaura Barclay is an ordained minister and author. She holds an M.Div. from Wake Forest University School of Divinity and a B.A. from the University of Louisville. She spent five years working with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina as their Social Ministries Coordinator. Barclay is the author of With Us in the Wilderness, and she blogs at The Winding Labyrinth. She is married to a fellow minister, Ryan Eller, a community organizer. She can frequently be found decked out in red and cheering for the Louisville Cardinals.

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