* This is an excerpt from Good Dirt: Lent, Holy Week, Eastertide and Pentecost
Lent is the season of the divine paradox: we must die to live. Nature echoes this paradox. Seeds must die to live. Stars die to birth galaxies. It is the way of creation, and we are created. While the other seasons of the church burst withlife, Lent brings us ﬁrmly to our deaths. As we observe Jesus’ walk toward his cross, we become aware of our own. As he said, we must die to live. Using our gardening metaphor, Lent is weed-pulling and tree-pruning. It is the decay of composted materials that will eventually enrich our soul soil. My (Lacy) gardening is a comedy of errors, except there’s not much laughing.
Two springs ago I decided I needed a strawberry garden. I hauled over goat manure to mix into the soil before planting my tiny new plants, some ﬁfty of them. I painstakingly designed my watering system and dreamed of the mouth-watering delights that would soon be my reward.
Boy, was I wrong. The little plants did grow, but so did the hidden enemy: the not-so-decomposed alfalfa seed in the manure. My Mom always said manure was nothing but grass and water; now I knew she was right. Since the manure wasn’t fully composted, along with my precious strawberry plants I inadvertently planted alfalfa. Somewhat digested alfalfa, but alfalfa nonetheless. In an alfalfa ﬁeld, alfalfa is good; in a strawberry garden, bad. I spent the remainder of the spring and summer and fall and until blessed winter came, pulling weeds. Everybody got a chance to pull weeds. Children, grandparents, visitors all took a turn in the strawberry garden. One hot summer afternoon I was pulling in this garden, which is ﬂanked by an old St. Francis statue that has been repainted by various children who seem to have gained their painting skills from the circus. I desperately wanted to burn the whole patch down, with ﬁre or chemical. All this work for a few delights that I could buy from the grocery store didn’t seem worth the eﬀort. I stared at St. Francis, giving him the stink eye, like all of this was his fault. He smiled his usual smile and continued to hold out the bread and wine.
I persistently pulled those weeds while my mind drifted to spiritual practices. The eﬀorts that make our spirits strong and healthy are often like weed pulling. Confession, fasting, simplicity, submission are just a few that came to mind that afternoon. Eventually I began a routine of confession each time I stepped into that weedy holy ground. This confession was a conversation with God in which I could tell the truth about myself and tell the truth about God.
This is Lent.