The literal meaning of Lent is “springtime,” a fact I was reminded of this morning while reading Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter. How ironic, I thought, glancing out the window at the remains of yesterday’s light snow.
Whether you live in a place where winter’s grip is yet fast tight or in some place where summer’s heat is already warming up the edges of these March days, I believe Lent asks us to practice spring while it is yet winter.
And isn’t that the paradox of Christian faith? Like Jesus before us, we submit to death in order to receive life.
We study patches of icy snow and declare, “Here is where the daffodils will grow.”
Beyond simple declaration and belief, what does it mean to practice spring? How do we cultivate resurrection in the valley of the shadow of death?
I suppose if I had quick and easy answers to those questions, we could celebrate Easter tomorrow. Our preparation would be complete, and the feast could begin.
But Lent is a journey and journeys are sustained by questions more than they are by answers. We ask, we seek, and so we are propelled toward new life.
So here, at the beginning of this season, at the beginning of this journey, I am clarifying my questions.
If I have already died with Christ, how then am I called to live again today?
Can the hope of spring, if hope is being sure of what we cannot yet see, transform even this present winter?
And I am remember something I wrote down years ago in my book Roots and Sky:
This is not my first spring, and here is something I know: the day when daffodils emerge is not the day for hope. The day when seedlings show the bright green of new life is not the day for faith. That day came and went. Hope is for the dark days. The days when all you can see is mud and mess … Those are the days when miracles begin.
I have always imagined miracles to be like loud shouts. Like trumpet blasts. But they are secretive. They are more like deeply buried seeds. Easter Sunday is not the day for miracles. It is the day for praise. Every miracle we ever needed, every miracles we ever wanted begins in those forty days of rain. Or those forty wilderness years. Even those forty days in the desert. Always, God is tugging us toward resurrection, tugging us and this whole weary, winter world toward new life. But the way is dark. The road is long.
This Lenten journey is a long one. I feel that especially here and now, at the beginning.
But I have asked my questions. I have taken my first steps.
Readers, my new book Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty, and Peace releases on March 12! It’s a call to tend the soul, the land, and the places we share with one another. It’s a reminder that the cultivation of good and beautiful places is not a retreat from the real world but a holy pursuit of a world that is more real than we know.
I hope you’ll order your copy today.