Yesterday Tom and I visited the University of Washington quad, where together with thousands of others we drank in the magnificence of the cherry blossoms. My soul is singing as I rejoice in the beauty of God’s creation in this springtime extravaganza.
I often find myself conflicted between the season of Lent with its sense of deprivation and the rejoicing of spring and the wonder of what is happening in my garden. There is a tension here that in past years I have not found easy to reconcile. But this year as I have focused on Lent as preparation for transformation, not time for denial and sacrifice, the tension has resolved.
The world is getting ready for transformation and by the grace of God I am able to join in. In the garden I am tilling the soil, loading it with compost and planting the seeds in the depths of the rich, dark soil. Each seed I plant is a promise filled with the hope that it will germinate and be transformed into new life.
There are other promises that the spring planting season brings with it. In many countries starvation and hunger are seasonal. It is during this time of the year, when the stored harvest is depleted that poor families are most reliant on dried seeds, nuts and beans that they eke out with the hope that the new harvest will begin before their stores are finished. Each seed planted bears with it a hope for transformation, a longing not just for the new growth but for the first fruits, the first sprouts that can be eaten and renew life. For some the greatest seal of hopelessness is when they need to use their seeds as food to survive, forcing themselves into hunger and starvation for next year too.
In my heart I am longing for the same germination of new life that has been planted in my soul. I long to see the new sprouts, the promise of a new harvest that I am beginning to catch glimmers of. How often I wonder have I eaten those seeds instead and denied God the ability to grow a new crop in my heart.
The giving of first fruits in cultures that lived on the edge of starvation during the season between planting and harvest must have been a huge sacrifice, an incredible denial of their own needs for nourishment so that their commitment to God could be fed and nourished first. Maybe that is what the denial of Lent is meant to be about. This is indeed a season to put the needs of God, and of others, and of the creation as well, before our own. This is the season above all others when we need to nourish the seeds of God’s transformation and allow it to grow and flourish.
As I work in the garden this week I know that my reflections will continue to revolve around the ongoing transformation God wants to accomplish in my life. Here are the questions I am asking myself:
Where has God planted seeds that have still not sprouted and need to be nurtured? Where have I failed to plant seeds because of a scarcity mentality, feeling that I will starve if I keep back some for next year’s harvest? And where have failed to give God the first fruits because I am so longing for new produce for myself?