Spring Cleaning for the Soul

Spring is in the air and so the adage goes, the minds of the young turn to love! Spring conjures those images of hope, opportunity and joy. We spring-clean; we eat spring lamb; we witness new life appearing all around us in gardens and among animals in rural areas. It is a time to emerge from our own winter cocoons and stretch our minds and bodies. It is football finals time again – another disappointing year for Carlton!

In many parts of Australia there is only limited seasonal change, so sometimes the changes can be missed or not be apparent. Spring is not just a season, it is a state of mind. Spring connotes openness to change, a commitment to life and living, and an attitude that embraces possibilities. In short, “Spring” is a symbol of hope.

Hope is not a baseless clutching after the ephemeral – like “I hope I win the lottery” or “I hope the Australian cricket top order can withstand a mild breeze”. Instead it is an orientation towards the future – indeed Thomas Aquinas described it as an existential orientation towards the future of humanity. There is no more a telling skill we can pass on to children, than the capacity to hope.

Hope requires work and toil. It is necessary to look often in the mirror and look at reality, but just as much a commitment, to continue to strive to be better. In being hopeful we become hospitable and patient. We become “hospitable” because hope means to welcome even to embrace another person or persons. We see this in the willingness to form relationships, in being willing to have children and we see it in continuing relationships even when people do not live up to our expectations. It is patient because we continue to trust and hope that people and situations will turn out for the best.

This does not mean that we look at the world through rose-tinted glasses. Hope is a commitment to freedom and freedom relies on truth. We need to know what we are getting ourselves into but still remain open to the best in ourselves and others. My wife Anne is very familiar with all my many failings; our children are also aware of my limits as a father but in hope they do not abandon me but are patient that eventually, I will conform to the advice of my better angels!

It is because of hope that we work for an improved world for ourselves, our children and for others. When, in hope, we embrace a better education system or better health care system we are not only seeking these things for ourselves or our own families but they are achievements for everyone. Hope is not isolating but community building – the activities of hope are about both embracing life and being open to life in all its wonder.

As Christians we believe that hope is one of the basic gifts of God – it is what the scriptures tell us is what God does in creating: he makes a world, peoples it, gives it an orientation toward life and creativity and, then, hopes it will turn out well. Salvation history is a record of how the creation has not always lived up to the hopes of the Creator, but where, in response, the Creator seeks to offer new hopes and new opportunities for the creation to embrace freedom and life.  So it is that Christians hope for eternal life but also strive to bring about the Kingdom here on earth.

As we enter into Spring it is a good time to remind ourselves and our children about the need for hope. That we need to work, as the creation does to bring forth buds and blossoms, babies and broods; we need to be patient as we all learn what comes easily, what needs great effort and what may never be a strong skill. As we encourage our children to recognise their strengths and limitations we should also encourage them to be patient and open and to embrace others. Hope teaches us that time and effort are needed to become fully human; it also teaches that only together within a human community is it possible to achieve wholeness. Take time to smell the flowers, to watch new life unfold before us and to be joyfully open to the possibilities.