My friend Gretchen says that Lent is for preparing the garden — and as a woman if the cloth, she would know. It was in last week’s Ash Wednesday service that she said this and though the early spring might have us take her words literally, she means them in a figurative sense too. The Lenten season, the Lenten fast, gives us the sacred task of tending to our souls, and that which our lives have yielded in the past year.
Just as we clean out what is old and dead from our gardens — there are fall leaves, leftover dandelions and a stray tomato vine or two in mine right now — fasting, reflection, prayer, gives us the opportunity to clean out that which is old and dead in our lives. We are creating space for the new, Gretchen says, and getting rid of that which keeps us from the joy and delight God invites us into.
The Lenten fast, then, asks us where we have not claimed love, delight and joy. And not for our own sake but “that we may show forth Your light in the world.”
I have some cleaning to do. I was digging around and found some self-glorification tendencies that are not serving me well, along with some time-wasting habits and the belief that I can feed my body crap and expect it to perform otherwise. I also exert a good deal of self-effort, trying to make my life More Awesome, and it is exhausting and lame and not all that Christ-like.
I was also cleaning my literal garden this weekend — there was mold, I had a heavy duty respiration mask; it was for serious. When I got to my yellow-stemmed dogwood, I remembered how vibrant and beautiful the twigs were.
In the process of clearing away what is dead, you find beauty..