During this Lenten season, more than any other Lent, I am getting how significant it is that Lent means spring.
Lent is also a time for us to connect to the meaning of desert; to magnify the event of Jesus fasting in the desert for 40 days to prepare for his public ministry in our own lives.
As a Midwesterner, I don’t know much about deserts. I’ve visited some deserts in places like Namibia and New Mexico though, and have always found the environment very strange and mysterious; it’s not really barren as a lot of life and beauty thrives in the dryness. I certainly don’t know much about springtime in such a landscape, but I understand that desert dwellers also experience the season—just very differently than we do here in the Midwest.
Yet, I know Lent is really not about the dryness and emptiness we associate with deserts—even though it’s often what fasting feels like at first. Rather, Lent is about signs of spring: refreshment, renewal and growth.
We manifest these signs of spring to each other as we offer gestures of love, kindness and service to one another during these 40 days. Our actions make us into signs and transform the world around us. We freshen the environment, the culture, and our community and make marks of preparation. In a way, our actions become like little party decorations that get us really ready for the power, mystery, conversion and celebration that happens in Holy Week.
Our Lenten actions are definitely signs of spring. Our prayers, fasting and almsgiving are vibrant signs of hope for a hurting humanity. Our works of mercy in motion can be encouragement for each other, when we keep flopping and failing in our Lenten practices, getting discouraged and realizing, again, how much we need God. As we share Christ’s love may we keep our eyes open and see the green life coming forth from each of us, and may we keep our ears open to hear the beautiful, encouraging songs of the returned birds.
The signs of spring are all around us in this Lenten desert. May we lean on each other as a beloved community and see each other as signs of real renewal and hope.