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Signs of spring, both spiritual and physical

In the nine years that we have lived here, the one thing that has always been a herald of impending springtime has been that little snow drop in the photo above. No matter what kind of winter we’ve had, no matter how battered and bruised the ground, that hardy little blossom fights its way through the hard earth and offers us hope. In the muddy, brown backyard, it stands as a reminder of what is to come. New life is around the corner, and before we know it we will be surrounded by the bright greens of spring.

How fitting that the little snow blossom would arrive at this time, just as we are trudging through the dusty days of Lent, longing for the resurrection that we know is in the offing. I, for one, have been feeling a bit dusty and dried up spiritually these days. My Lent has not gone as I would have liked. Then again, it never does. Maybe I set my sights too high. Maybe I’m just not disciplined enough. I managed to come through on some of my Lenten promises, but not the big ones. Or at least the big ones in my eyes. Fasting and abstinence are relatively easy compared to deep prayer and true charity. I’m not talking about a quick vocal shout out to God and a check tossed into a collection. I was hoping for intense contemplative prayer and the kind of charity that focuses on love, the kind of love that transforms. That’s a tall order, I suppose, and the fasting and abstinence certainly help because they provide the physical reminders of what we are working toward. Still, two critical parts of the three-part Lenten equation have been sorely lacking in my life.

As you’ve probably noticed, I haven’t posted much about spiritual life this Lent. Recipes and columns, yes. Insights into the spirit? Not so much. And that is due, in part, to the state of my own spiritual life. I always say that this blog is like a window into my soul. When it is stagnant or inactive, it’s probably a sign that my prayer life is stagnant and inactive. Because when my prayer life is rich and full — or even when I’m struggling but still in the midst of it — I can’t help but share it. It’s only in those fallow times, the times when I don’t feel much of anything that things get quiet here too. When that happens during Lent, it’s like a double whammy for me. I find it even harder to pull myself out because I want so much from this season.

And maybe that’s the problem. I’m expecting to make up for an entire year’s worth of neglected prayer in forty days. The reality is that Lent is not some magical season where everything I’ve done wrong or ignored the rest of the year suddenly drops away and I am left with a pure, shining spiritual life. Like that little snow drop, I need to be doing unseen work day after day. Diligent, prayerful work beneath the surface. You cannot get the blossom without the slow, quiet and difficult work that prepares the plant for that shining moment when it bursts through the ground and fills the world with color and hope.

So…these last weeks of Lent will be a time for quiet reflection and invisible work. I can sense the joy of Easter getting closer. There’s still time to get ready, to do what needs to be done so that I, too, can push through the murkiness that’s keeping me down and into the light of spring.

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