On this day of ashes, I am keenly aware of the weeds.
I dig my fingers into the earth, steadily rocking the stem back and forth until its root finally gives way. I toss the newly eradicated dandelion onto a foot-high stack of discarded greenery and dig back in for another. Weeds, weeds, weeds! Every spring they invade effortlessly, spreading and crowding until not an inch remains for the planting of something useful.
The season of Lent is here, heralded by the beginning of spring and the bright green of neglected garden plots overrun with unwanted plants. I know that this summer I will be joyfully picking and eating and sharing the fruit! But for now, I see only potential and weeds.
By the end of the morning, my fingernails are packed with dirt, seemingly impervious to the good scrubbing they’ve just received. I sit down with a cup of hot tea and warm my icy hands on the mug. The seeds aren’t even in the ground yet, but at least the soil is ready! I change out of my grubby gardening clothes and head to work.
This is the nature of harvest: beautiful, bountiful, communal… and loads of work. And so it is with the garden of my soul. This is the long game of walking with Jesus! It’s all about maintaining the good soil, carefully weeding my soul to keep it ready for His life-giving words.
The rain batters my windshield as I drive home that evening, two hyper-tired boys in the backseat. I pass a local church holding its Ash Wednesday service. It’s been years since I’ve been to one of those, and my heart longs to stop and receive ashes, to heed the invitation into this season of repentance and fasting. Instead, I drive by with a whispered prayer. The kids should have been in bed a half-hour ago!
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment when one begins the slow fade into the weeds. It starts with sprouts that can be dealt with tomorrow, small annoyances or disappointments. After enough tomorrows, the job of uprooting grudges and bitterness becomes too overwhelming and the good fruit of life with Christ begins to wither.
Jesus, in this Lenten season would you weed out everything that threatens to choke your work in my heart? Anger, bitterness and hurt spring up so fast, and I am weary of being on my knees digging at the root of the problem. Pull up every last bit, root and all!
In a strange way, I love this season of ashes and fasting. It is earthy and real, the intersection of Christ’s redemption and the realities of my daily life. Every spring, as I kneel down and weed the garden, I am reminded to get on my knees and weed my soul. Together, Jesus and I make it ready for new life, anticipating the harvest that will come.
Jesus, on this Ash Wednesday would you burn away the piles of discarded habits, grudges, and expectations? May this first day of fasting mark not just my forehead, but my heart with the ashen reminder of the power of repentance.
Lenten Reflection #1
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