In England, March is when the allotments* start to come alive again after a long, wet winter. There are always a few seasoned gardeners who make regular visits in the winter months to tend to their late harvest brassicas, onions, and leeks but most of us call it quits by the time the first frost comes around. Because of lockdown and the juggle of home-educating and work, I can count on one hand how many times I got my hands into the cold, dark soil – only enough to clear out the brittle corn stocks and dead tomato plants. I managed to take down my bean supports so they didn’t blow over on someone and plant a few garlic and onions but that was about it.
In the last couple weeks however, as the birds have started to nest and the sun warms, the neglected plot is calling out for attention. March is when we start to dig. For those of us, who left our allotments to “rewild” over winter, it is time to turn the soil inch by inch and pull out every trace of weed and impurity. It takes hours and a patient determination to ensure that when the crops are planted they have the best possible chance to thrive.
Lent is also a time for digging. It is a time when we pull out the impurities that so easily entangle us to make space for God. As Christians, we take time to reflect, to pray, and to confess where we have strayed from God’s loving embrace. We ask God to reveal those things on which we lean that are not of him and we eliminate those things that take our attention away from him. There are times, however, when it is difficult to even know what those things are. Like the fine thread-like roots in the soil, you can’t see them unless you lean in, dig deep, and know what you are looking for. Like the earth of the allotment, often the weed roots go so far down that one has to dig deep and then dig again to truly be rid of the couch grass, thistles, and stinging nettle, (which are the typical culprits here in the UK).
This is part of the curse.
In the book of Genesis, we meet the first humans: Adam and Eve. They don’t trust that God has given them the very best and all they need, so they fall to temptation and eat fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When God finds them, shamed, he punishes them.
17 And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
These last words: the words said on Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of Lent. This is not the end of the story however, because 40 days later, Jesus rises from the dead. And after the digging is done, seeds are sown. When we take time to clear out the impurities, the smallest seeds are able to take root and grow: giving life, giving hope, and giving us a reminder of the promise that God has not left us desolate outside the garden, somewhere east of Eden but he is with us and one day, will redeem all of creation. There will be no need for digging. There will be no more sorrow or sadness or the aching that comes with turning the soil. There will be no more death but rather, new life, fresh fruit and an eternal feast.
This post is part of the 2021 Writing Challenge. This challenge is open to anyone and involves writing on one word a week for 52 weeks. Write for yourself or write for others but either way, please feel free to share by posting a link in the comments (if you’re posting on this week’s word) or post on social using the #2021writingchallenge and tagging me on Twitter or Instagram, or posting on my FB page so I can repost. Happy Writing!