We’re about a third of the way through the season of Lent. The roots of the fast should be beginning to form, possibly even a few green shoots coming up now as we use this time for good self-examination, the development of holy habits, and the continuation of our observance of our chosen fast.
I often speak and write in gardening metaphors because I think the process of gardening gives good insight in the way God works in our lives. Jesus seemed to think so too, since he also spoke with a lot of agricultural symbolism. Nice to be in good company.
Anyway, gardening is heavy on my mind right now because the excessively wet soil means the church organic gardening club is just having to sit and wait right now. These clay soils can’t be worked when they are this wet. I managed to plant my own early spring garden only because my kind husband built multiple raised beds for me. They are draining adequately, even while the ground around them easily passes for Florida swampland right now.
So, how do gardens help us understand the growth to spiritual maturity? Well, we could start with what we are experiencing right now: the need for patience. It’s hard to say there is too much rain, since we have just come from a drought, but all the extra moisture, which will pay off later, means we just have to wait things out.
Along with this, we might also consider humility: no matter how we try, we really cannot control the weather. Humans are just not that powerful. We do have limits. If we let these limits give us these good gifts of humility and patience, we will have taken great strides of growth.
A good fast very much teaches patience. We can’t make the 40 days go any faster than they will. And if your fast includes eliminating some normal meals, the days may drag even more slowly by. There is nothing like not eating and feeling stomach pangs to slow the clock down.
These endless moments provide powerful prayer posts. Time to pray for those who are not intentionally hungry, for those whose longing for food is a matter of survival, not momentary comfort, for those who are watching their children slowly and painfully die of starvation, and for those who are also starved for any signs of the goodness of God. Yes, this will bring humility because we will suddenly see just how much we do have.
An editorial I read this week reminded the readers that even the poorest of us travel today in more comfort than the greatest of royalty did up until the invention of the automobile. Horseback, or horse drawn carts but mostly on foot, no temperature control, exceedingly dangerous roads–far more than we experience now. Filthy stopping places–our sanitized hotel/motel rooms, no matter how modest, are castles by comparison, with clean sheets and private baths, hot running water, abundant towels and cleansing products, and oh, the glory of indoor, happily flushing toilets! Yes, let us rediscover our blessings in the doing without for a while, so they become all the sweeter when we can savor them again.
One third of the way there. Easy to get distracted now, to leave behind the extra time of prayer and reflection, to lose the benefits. Hold onto one another, keep up the public encouragement and the private deprivation. We do this together, and the victory is greater when we help each other up onto the winner’s stand. God is with us and the saints are cheering us on.