The ashes of today, from last year’s palms, are gritty and grimy and dry. Kind of how I get after a long hot year in the desert. Many parts of the country are still covered with snow but here at the border on Ash Wednesday we are already Spring-ing forward. Yesterday I watched a tractor plow up the cotton field that surrounds our house. It is a rich image for the beginning of Lent. The stubble of last year’s harvest had become somewhat of an eye-sore so I was happy to see the John Deere machine turn into our field. Up and down the rows it moved, tearing through the dry topsoil to reveal a darker, richer, fresh layer beneath. But ouch! How that must hurt! And all kinds of critters that have been comfortable since the summer months have now gone scurrying for shelter.
It is a painful process, this preparing the ground for a new planting. Not just the old dead remains of summer get torn up and plowed under. Some good living stuff must go down as well. And so it is with Lent. Each year we need that plow to turn into our lives, to dig down into what has become dry and hard and stuck, to breathe some light and air into us. And sometimes one pass isn’t enough!
What helps me to accept this necessary roughness is knowing that there is a planting to come. There is meaning in the suffering, the voluntary and involuntary sacrifices that I embrace in this season. God hovers over this freshly plowed ground of my life. In the days and weeks ahead God will give me what I need in order to grow something new and wonderful.