Lenten Journal, Day 13

I had a first-in-the-morning appointment at the digestive disease medical office today, a pre-screening for the colonoscopy I have scheduled in two weeks. Weight, blood pressure, review of medications, instructions on which medications to discontinue ahead of the procedure, medical history review, that sort of thing … and, of course, the preparation instructions for the day before.

I can’t really think of anything more appropriate for Lent than colonoscopy prep, can you?

OK, I’m being facetious.

Anyway, on the drive back home I began to see signs of spring that either I had not seen before or had overlooked. Certain trees have those not-yet-quite-green buds that will become leaves. The first of the bulb plants are beginning to emerge; crocus, I imagine but I’m not a gardener so I really don’t know these things. Lots of birds flitting about; I recognize cardinals and American robins but not too many others. I have heard but not yet seen the red-winged black birds that are my favorite spring birds. In any event, even though tomorrow is the first “official” day of spring, there are signs that it is already here.

One of those signs are the pictures Southern California friends are posting of “superblooms” of wild flowers in the desert. When conditions are right, the desert becomes a riot of color and, I guess, this is one of those years. The vistas of bright orange poppies and other flowers are stunning. Even the poor substitute of pictures on my computer screen gladdens my heart and brings back fond memories of my college years in San Diego. Bittersweet memories of old friends and old lovers with whom one has lost touch, sad memories of those one knows have passed on, happy memories of good times and good people.

Memories are a Lenten thing. The season begins with an invitation to remember, “to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance,”[1] and a reminder, God “himself knows whereof we are made; he remembers that we are but dust.”[2] Too often we think that the call to remembrance is an admonition to find the worst things about ourselves, that Lent is a time only to purge away those things of which we are ashamed, that Lent is, in fact, like colonoscopy preparation and that we aren’t keeping Lent properly if it isn’t unpleasant. But the reminder isn’t that we are muck and grime to be purged away, but rather that we are dust, we are soil, we are earth. Earth is to be cultivated.

Out of the dusty soil of the desert come those superblooms, those bursts of color and life. That’s truly what Lent is about. This season is not about purging away the shit; it’s about nurturing the seeds of the present with the fertilizer of memory. Bad, yes, but also good; bitter but also sweet; sad but also joyful. If there’s shit to be dealt with, the way to do that is by turning it into something useful, by composting it and using it in a constructive manner, by turning the memories over and spreading them among the seedlings of the present to encourage growth and abundance.

One of the Episcopal Church’s “proper prefaces” for masses in Lent, those introductory prayers chanted by the presiding priest before he or she recites Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, insists that the purpose of Lent is the renewal of God’s people so that we “may come to the fullness of grace which [God has] prepared for those who love [God].”[3] Lent is not about shit and sin and sorrow; it’s about restoration and fullness and abundance. It’s not supposed to be colonoscopy prep; it’s supposed to be getting ready for a superbloom!


(Note: The photograph was taken by Facebook friend Susan Forsburg and posted by her on Facebook, March 10, 2019. It shows the blooming of California poppies in Walker Canyon near Lake Elsinore, in Riverside County, California. I am grateful to Susan for posting the photo and all the memories it inspires. Please checkout Susan’s photography page!)

Click on footnote numbers to link back to associated text.

[1] Ash Wednesday Liturgy, The Book of Common Prayer 1979, page 265

[2] Psalm 103:14 (BCP Version)

[3] Holy Eucharist II, The Book of Common Prayer 1979, page 379