Early March, and it’s still cold here in eastern Virginia. For a few more weeks, the temperatures will remain too unpredictable to do much planting, but I have begun collecting packets of seeds. A few I can go ahead and sow directly into the ground (radishes, lettuces); others I can start indoors in flats (marigolds, nasturtiums); the others will have to wait a bit.
What really needs my attention, though, is weeding. I have been out assessing the situation, and it looks as though the weeds have had quite a good winter. The dandelions in the grass I don’t mind so much. They remind me of my grandparents’ yard when I was a child, and they will add a bit of midsummer color. But honeysuckle—the non-native kind that invades a landscape and strangles native shrubs and trees—has run amok in the ground cover on one side of the yard. To get it in check will require some dedicated and persistent effort over the next few weeks.
As I ponder these things, just at the start of the third week of Lent, I am reminded that the same sort of interior weeding is what Lent asks of us. I’m not thinking here about attaining inner perfection, for I know there will always be dandelions in my inner landscape! But I am thinking of the kinds of insidious inner habits that can creep in—and that can be both invasive and destructive if left unchecked.
For example, have I let my own need to speak crowd others out of conversations? Have I rushed to fill a silence with words, thereby keeping conversations on the surface, not letting them sink down to deeper levels? Have I gone too quickly to the glib phrase or funny line—to ease tension, perhaps, or to cover my own anxiety or deny my own vulnerability by keeping others at arm’s length?
Or perhaps I have picked up habits over the last season or two that are unhealthful in other ways. For example, am I watching too much TV, not getting the exercise I need to stay flexible and strong, reaching for snacks that drain my energy rather than nourish my soul and body? Could some of my habits be keeping me—whether deliberately or inadvertently—from hearing, or doing, something related to my work, my call?
I know what I want from the yard and this spring and summer. I want home-grown tomatoes and squash to eat and to share. I want pastel lilacs and bold, colorful zinnias to bring indoors and to give away. I want native shrubs and trees that will not only provide shade for my grandchildren when they come to visit but also give shelter and food to the visiting birds. And I know that I can have those things only with some preparation, some effort, some discipline on my part.
I also know what I want my inner landscape to yield: a creative, generous, and spacious heart—one that listens deeply to others while remaining honest and true. That hope also requires of me some preparation, some effort, some discipline.
Lent calls me to that work. May it be so.
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