I thought about making the easy layup for this week’s devotional, talking about 40 days and 40 nights, Jesus’ temptations by Lucifer in the wilderness, yada, yada, yada. But I decided that would be missing the mark as we begin another season of Lent. The number 40 arguably is rich with symbolism in the Bible. Many of the stronger characters of scripture are tested, are called to fasting, or are led to deepness of prayer for a period of 40 days. Said a little differently, however, as Christians, we are called to use the season of Lent for taking inventory of our lives, communicating more intimately with our Heavenly Father, and cleansing of our lives from those things that are providing impediments to any longer lasting relationships with Him.
Most days, that’s a tall order for me and perhaps many of you to follow through on. I can remember as a kid, being raised in a Catholic home, mom and dad would always ask my siblings and me, “Okay…what are you planning to give up for Lent this year?” Many years, that sacrifice consisted of giving up sweets, being more deliberate in our chores, or maybe reading a book or two. Those simple acts of sacrifice might work in a children’s world. But as an adult, today, I’m not sure about giving up chocolates, especially as I look across the kitchen counter-top in my home today to see some leftover Valentine’s Day candy within direct eye-shot as I was writing this week’s devotional.
My wife would tell you that if the option of where to live were left up to me, I would arm-wrestle the rest of my family into buying a home south of Charlotte, perhaps near Waxhaw, Marvin, or Weddington. Now for those not familiar with the suburbs of Charlotte, those three towns share some common identification as “horse farming towns”. Maybe I missed my calling in life? Well, the choice of where to live was not left up to me…and I am very happy living within 10 minutes to Uptown Charlotte. Raising five chickens in our backyard is about all the farming I’m doing these days.
I’m very interested in the “green” side of farming, regardless of the size of my personal situation. From the start, I’ve been cleaning out the chicken coop every morning, taking chicken “droppings” (for last of a better term) and putting them into a compost drum that sits next to the back door of the chicken run. The “magic” that takes place inside that drum over several months is somewhat of a mystery to me, but I can tell I’ve got some very potent garden fertilizer ready to go! My dream of being more “green” is quickly approaching. Just this week, I pulled out the Farmer’s Almanac to get the best advice on planting seasons here in Charlotte.
I’ve calculated out three different growing seasons. The first will start in another week or so, and will consist of mostly “lettuce” family vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach. The growing season is about 5 or 6 weeks, since I will not be growing seedlings ahead of time. Instead, I’ll put those seeds directly in the ground. After the first growing portion, I’ll harvest the vegetables, and then focus on prepping the gardens for the next growing effort. The middle season will again take 5 to 6 weeks. More vegetables, more waiting, but harvesting at the end of the middle 5-6 week period. Same drill as before, I’ll clear up the raised boxes, and prep for the final period. I think you get the gist of what I’m trying to explain.
The harvest is great, but I’ve become particularly drawn to the cleaning up period that must take place in-between planting efforts. Did you catch that parallel reference to something I mentioned earlier? Cleaning up the beds. Is that not similar to the cleansing references in my earlier definition of Lent? Just as cleansing is critical for observing the season of Lent, the cleaning out of the vegetable beds best allows for a successful follow-on planting effort.
Ironically or not, that 5-6 week growth period, closely models that 40-day period for some Biblical references. And at the end of the growth, comes the opportunity and need to metaphorically clean out the flower beds in our own lives. Ultimately, this clearing out allows for the cycle to become complete, and allows for more growth in future seasons.
Things get built up in our lives. Our closets become crowded. Our body weight gets a little heavier. And clutter forms in most of the nooks and crannies of our spiritual lives. However, I found something very interesting when planning out my growing seasons from that Farmer’s Almanac. Planting calls for us to strip away the ground in order to start with dirt and dust. Then we dig down deep to plant our seeds, feed them periodically with water and nutrients. Then, when the 40 days is done, we harvest, taking the fruits and vegetables from our laboring to enrich our lives and that of those around us. Lastly, we repeat the process, scraping away the remaining vines and branches, leaving the ground to once again be dirt and dust.
Perhaps you’ve picked up on my subtle hints. Scripture reminds us that we are “dust….and unto dust we shall return“, especially at the beginning of this Lenten season. May all our lives be like the harvest season, making way for the cleaning out of the clutter that surrounds us. And may all our growing seasons that we farm throughout our lives be gentle reminders of the book ends that start and end with dirt and dust.