When my son was in first grade, I was a chaperone on a field trip to the science museum. On such outings, the teacher usually assigns students to your care and then the fun begins: You have to withstand the pleading looks the students give you at the gift shop and open all their juice boxes during the lunch break. Being a field trip chaperone involves a lot of head-counting and bathroom supervision. It’s mostly easy and I always learn something new. For example, on this particular field trip, I learned about the water cycle.
Behind the science museum, there’s a natural swamp so they use this area to teach about things like tadpoles, aquatic plants, and water conservation. When the young tour guide explained the stages of the water cycle, she held up a drawing depicting evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. Being an attentive chaperone, I was only halfway listening to her spiel. The majority of my attention was focused on the six- and seven-year olds I was charged to protect and prevent from embarrassing their teacher by falling into the pond. But then the tour guide said something that caught my attention. She said, “All of the water in the world is recycled. It’s used again and again. New water isn’t made; it’s just moved.”
For some reason, her words hit me. Of course, I was previously familiar with the concept of the water cycle, seeing how I’d already been to first grade, but I never thought about the fact that new water wasn’t created. All the water there is in the world is all the water there is. We can dam rivers and dig canals and fill reservoirs but the water there isn’t new. We can even burst clouds with rockets to make it rain, but the drops that fall are ancient and experienced.
There are many places in nature we find a cycle. We see it in the seasons, planets, and plants. The merry-go-round of birth, life, and death is continuous and yet unique. We see this theme throughout the Scriptures with references to new birth and dying to our sins.
When Nicodemus, a prominent religious leader of the Jews, secretly approached Jesus one dark night, he was told he had to be reborn in order to see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus had a shortsighted view of the life cycle of humans. He only knew the part about birth-to-death. He didn’t know there was another birth available, a spiritual one that guarantees eternal life.
Nicodemus must have remembered Jesus’ words: “whoever believes in Him will not perish…” when he helped to prepare Christ’s crucified body for the tomb three years after their late night discussion. As he poured the burial perfumes and wrapped the motionless limbs, did Nicodemus watch the lifeless body expecting to see this resurrection Jesus had described?
We know it didn’t happen as they buried him, but three days later. His body was renewed and Jesus rose from the tomb, walking and talking and even making breakfast for his Apostles. The darkness of his death was only a part of the story.
As many of us pause this week to remember this pivotal series of events, I’m grateful to note Christ’s sacrifice is enough to keep this cycle going. My life here is only a part of the story. And like the water droplets that continue to fall and evaporate and form clouds and fall again, His grace is sufficient. It’s all I need and it’s always there.