Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,
it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24)
Ah, March: that month on the calendar which signifies hope and new life; the lengthening of daylight, the melting of dirty snowbanks, and whiplashing temperature changes that force us to go from t-shirt and shorts to jackets and boots in a matter of minutes!
As a Christian, I equate the change of season this time of year with the season of Lent; every spring, during the forty days leading to Easter Sunday, I am called to bring before God those actions in my life that have brought dark and wintry death to my soul in preparation for the life-giving, light-filled hope of Easter Sunday. And like a wrestling match of control between the seasons of winter and spring that happen this time of year, it is a struggle for me every Lenten season to let go of the comfortable, yet unhealthy, aspects of my brokenness in exchange for healing and new life through the grace of God in the Risen Christ. Sort of like the tender, green shoots of new life that will soon be emerging from the cold, winter earth on lawns and fields everywhere.
Making a connection between the season of spring and Lent is evidence of some Christian traditions being rooted in aspects of nature. According to Merriam-Webster.com, the origin of the word Lent comes from the Old English ‘lencten’, referring to the lengthening of daylight in springtime. Like the lengthening days of March, the season of Lent is filled with the hope and promise of new life after a period of darkness and death. The length of the Lenten season—forty days (not counting Sundays)-- is connected not to an aspect of nature, but rather to the use of the number forty in scripture: the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years (Exodus 16:35), Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days after his baptism (Mark 1:13), and after his resurrection, Jesus hung out with the disciples for forty days before his ascension (Acts 1:3). In the early Church, the forty days of Lent was a time of prayer and fasting for those seeking to be baptized on Easter morning. Today, the season of Lent has been watered down (at least in my opinion!) as a time simply to give up something of enjoyment, such as alcohol, chocolate, cigarettes, and swearing.
With the fatigue brought on by the pandemic, my guess is that it is especially difficult this Lenten season for Christians around the world to give up something of enjoyment; the past year has felt like one long season of darkness and loss—of life, relationships, job and food security, and things we used to take for granted. My prayer for you during this season of Lent is that, as the green shoots of spring break through the cold, wintry earth in our lawns and fields, your heart may be filled with the hope and promise in the One who conquered death in order to offer new life!