SPRING IS RETURNING – slow though her return may be – to Northeast Tennessee. I welcome her with open arms and banners unfurled. I wrote in the past about my difficulties of January through early March for many years, even to the point that all creativity comes to a shocking halt during those awful days. This year’s trek through the snowy darkness was not as bad as it has been in years’ past, yet I usually woke up annoyed. Yes, that’s right, I woke up annoyed with everything. Luckily, I recognized this and tried to minimize my contact with other people, lest I turn into some kind of heinous, flesh-eating impaler during that hour. But the much longed for spring is here and any angry and vampiric desires have flown away like the rolled-up sweeter sleeves and cast-off cardigans. The time of the singing of birds is come and I couldn’t be happier.

TODAY, OF COURSE, is the Feast of St. Joseph, who gets no credit for being the hardest workin’ man in scripture and is almost always forgotten in favor of his wife. There is a wonderful meditation of sorts about St. Joe in John Irving’s A Prayer For Owen Meany. The narrator and the title character are in a nativity play together at their Episcopal church and the narrator plays St. Joesph. He writes about how he feels sympathy for the Saint because they both are simply spectators the spectacular graces of God — not necessarily participants, though. Just look at the Holy Family: the awesome God-Baby, his virginal mother and then there’s Saint Joe – paling in comparison to the rest of them (I mean no disrespect to St. Joseph, of course).

I CAN SYMPATHIZE with this, too. There are times and seasons – perhaps even years – that we go through life simply as spectators, simply as the audience and as the testifiers to somebody else’s miracle, providing backstage support for those who are playing a central role. We put them on the donkey, while we walk to Egypt. We have dreams but these dreams only relate the importance to those that have been put in our charge. We can’t all be highly favored or full of grace nor can we all be the Messiah – more often than not, we have to be the St. Joseph: the hardest workin’ folk with no recognition. Our surrounding culture might tell you that we should seek the center stage, to achieve all that we can be, to fight the good fight but we must remember that it is a glorious calling to be like St. Joseph. We must remember that he quietly provided the space for our miracle. Thanks be to God.

I THINK I feel most like St Joseph in the winter, when I almost lose the sense of the gifts that have been given to me. I have to play backstage support to those gifts. I have to load them up on the donkey and protect them while I begin the arduous trek of walking somewhere with them far away. The dreams I have only relate to the importance of these gifts that I have been given. I have to step aside, quiet my overactive mouth and let the gifts be miracles in themselves, for that is what they are (just like Our Lady and our most blessed Lord). Or, as another famous hard workin’ man of scripture once put it: I must become less and He must become more. St. Joseph, pray that we might have the grace to be good stewards of the gifts God has given us.

BUT SPRING IS here, life is burgeoning at a pleasing rate and the soul feels as if she can breathe for the first time in eons. The great inward sighing as the soul happens as he opens his windows and lets in the fresh breeze, takes out the rugs and beats the dust out of them. Spring is here and the soul blinks in the harsh bright light of day, takes a glass of iced tea (sweet, of course) out to the patio, to a favorite chair and watches these miracles of life happen.

AND THE SOUL is pleased. Not pleased because these miracles are happening directly to him, but because it is so pleasing to see life working life once again. O Come, let us worship and fall down and kneel before the Lord our Maker, the Lord of spring and winter and giver of all good gifts. Amen.