This week millions of people all over the world will begin the observance of Lent. Of course, first we'll stuff ourselves with fried dough and powdered sugar, but then the 40 days of preparation begin.
If you don't already know, Lent is, basically, just a reference to the 40 days leading up to Holy Week. It is meant to be a time of prayer and fasting and preparing the heart for the most sacred celebration of the Christian year - the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Since my personal focus lately has been so much on gardening and wildlife and caring for the earth I can't help but constantly tie everything back to that.
I am one of the weird ones. I like winter. I love the cold and the snow and the short, dark days. Not because I want to be freezing and stuck in my house all the time, but because nothing in the world feels more safe and snug and wonderful to me than wearing my softest, fuzziest clothes and being in the shelter of my warm little house with golden lamplight glowing while the sparkling snow falls and the wind howls. I love how excited my children get when we take them sledding or ice skating at the local park. I love that giant fuzzy hoodies cover more chub than shorts and tank tops. OK - so maybe driving in it is awful and, yes, at 35 degrees below zero, I was complaining about the air hurting my face, too but, overall, I like winter very much.
And I'm over it.
This winter has, literally, been the harshest of my whole life. We have broken all sorts of weather records including the snow record and the record cold temperature. At one point my husband asked his routine morning question, "Do you know what the weather is supposed to be like today?" I snapped a little and told him, "at this point you should probably just assume that every day for the rest of eternity we're going to get another foot of snow and it's going to be really really cold."
But even as I type this and the snow falls, yet again, outside my window I know that's not true. I know that spring is coming. I doubt this year will be like last - when I was outdoors with a spade in March, wondering if I could get away with putting my peas in a little early. But even if it's still snowing in May (as it's occasionally been known to do around here), the snow will stop. The ground will thaw. The trees will bud and the flowers will bloom and, before we realize what has happened we will be enjoying a sunny day at the lake.
Knowing that, wise gardeners all over the state are beginning to start their seedlings and take stock of their tools and draw out grids of just where their plants will go when the time is right. We prepare because, despite all appearances to the contrary, we know that winter will not last forever. If we don't prepare then we are frustrated when the ground thaws. The stores are out of what we need or the tools we require are rusty when we reach for them or we buy too few or too many seedlings and end up with wasted money or wasted space.
But even if you make no preparations, spring will come. The sun will shine over your home once more. The rain will fall and the flowers will grow. Spring comes for everybody, but not everybody makes the most of spring.
Just as this is the time of year when gardeners begin to prepare themselves for the special time of spring, which brings new life, so Lent is the time when we should prepare our hearts for the special time of the resurrection and new life in Christ. I think that can mean different things for different people. My experience of faith may not resemble yours in many ways but, if you are a follower of Christ the one experience that we share - the crucial thing that binds us - is that we are restored from our own brokenness through Jesus' death and through his victory over death. Jesus overcame death that we may have life; truly abundant, joyful, wonder-filled life!
In the coming 6 weeks we have time to prepare our hearts. We can pray and meditate, study the scriptures, serve the needy, fast or "give up" something that we feel is in the way of our spiritual growth. If we prepare now, then when the days of observance and celebration come, we will be fully ready to see, with open eyes, the truth of the miracle of life that has been given to us. If we use this time wisely, that time will be even more wondrous to us.
What about those who don't prepare? Well, just like spring comes for everyone, God's love and His Good gifts are not limited to those who follow a certain set of observances. Jesus' death and resurrection was for all people of all places and all times. Not most people or people like me or people of a certain class or race or culture. All. Every. Each, without exception.
The question is, will you make the most of it?
Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?
If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!
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