Consider the Lilies of the Field — and the Crocuses in Your Yard
Abide and Arise — A Lenten Reflection
It was a dreary afternoon in February, and I was in the midst of spiritual dryness, wondering where God was and what he was doing in my life through this desolation.
As I was pulling into my driveway, something struck me profoundly. I noticed some green life peeking from the cold earth. The early risers, my crocus plants, had begun to emerge and were preparing to bloom their vibrant yellow flowers, despite the fact spring appeared to be far away. The dingy old black mulch that had once hidden the life of the plant was even still trying to cover the plant’s tips. Yet, the power of this rebirth continued to push those signs of life up and through the earth to show the world what had happened during the cold and darkness of winter. All the crocuses had done was to abide and receive from the soil.
In my own darkness, I, like the crocus, could do nothing but abide in obedience and darkness until God told me it was time to arise.
Lent can feel, and in some respects should feel, like a time of spiritual dryness or death, a stripping away of the old. Leaves must fall away before new leaves can bud. Though a dormant tree stands tall, we can only see the barrenness, not the new life being regenerated. During soul deep conversion, one can feel as though they are standing naked like that winterized tree, or more intensely, like a stripped naked man hanging on a tree. Desperately seeking the warmth of the sun and trees bursting with color and new life, Lent can arouse a deep desire for resurrection.
Even in the stark, the dormant, the dryness and the darkness, God still hears even a weak and quiet “Yes.” And honestly, that's sometimes all God is asking for or expecting of his children, especially in times of hopelessness or loss. Winter can feel as though it will never depart, yet spring and all its splendor always arrives—just as the promises of God's redemption, though seemingly impossible, eventually become present in the lives of his abiding sons and daughters.
The beautiful Catholic tradition is full of both/and paradoxes, and Scripture gives us plenty of examples of the saints saying “Yes” to God. Though not a perfect comparison, this can be seen in the Old Testament Yes of Moses contrasted with the Yes of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the New Testament. Moses says “Yes” to be the mouthpiece of God and to lead the Israelites into the promised land. This imperfect man’s imperfect acts of obedience brought forth an important part of salvation history to the world. When Moses said “Yes,” even in his failures, he actively went out into his world and publicly did as the Lord asked of him. Moses received God’s message, said “Yes,” and took action.
In the New Testament, Mary offers the greatest yes ever known to man. She said “Yes” and it took nine months for her Yes to birth its visible bloom: Salvation Incarnate. The fruit of her perfect submission grew without her “doing anything.” The Mother of God rose in the mornings with a humble yes to her daily life: "Yes” to marry Joseph, “Yes” to visit her cousin Elizabeth, “Yes” to travel to Nazareth for a census. Then when the time came, her yes became visible to both her and to the whole world—Jesus Christ was born. Mary received God’s message, said “Yes,” and the Word grew in the darkness of her womb where one could not see redemption preparing for birth.
What if, for this Lent, all one chose to do was wake, tell God “Yes,” and simply go about daily life, all while abiding in God’s grace? What if in the dead of winter when the evidence of new life is still concealed, the hopeless one trusts that the new life is secretly growing in them while they receive God’s consolation and rest within their weary soul? The old dingy black mulch like a tombstone ready to be pushed away so that the resurrection can be revealed to the world. Hands open, heart open, soul ready to be resurrected all by abiding in the hope of God's promise and a daily, “Yes.”