My father loved to care for the lambs when they were first born at Dovehaven, our home in southern Quebec. The lambing season was always a tense time, since the lambs would emerge from sheep-wombs at any time and my mother and father would need to be ready with warm lamps and warm milk and plenty of hot coffee for the rest of us in the house who could not but get involved given the clatter.
The lambs would emerge weak and wobbly, unsure if emerging was a good idea. Mother sheep would lick and nuzzle and soon the little lambs were standing up and hopping around, so glad to be alive and unaware of what a wolf might be. What it can do.
I would often sit in the massive old barn, in the straw, watching the baby lambs, the size of a small puppy, as they hopped straight up into the air in what seemed to be pure joy, unfettered by awarenesses of the world into which they had been born, its joys and sadnesses, it dangers and its delights, its kittens and its rabid dobermans, its warmth and its egos.
As Lent begins, I have chosen flowers as my image theme for the season. I have chosen the beauty of flowers for the images of Lent because it seems that there is beauty inside us which is delicate, tender, bright, soft, vulnerable, fragrant; and I wonder if Lent must only be about us scoping out the sludge of our sins and our less lovely longings. Might Lent also be a time to tend to the protection of what lies inside us that is tender and lovely- nurturing it into Easter joy down the road? Must it all be about chains, thorns and ashes? Might Lent not also be about the beautiful flowers which thrive precisely because we are weeding out the invasive thorns of our sins?
I see the need for seasons of awareness, of editing, of fasting, of simplicity; however, I wonder if the bright goodness inside us does not wilt a little with so much focus on thorns when in Easter and Christmas we so tend to the flowers that the thorns sneak up and flourish in all the rush of chaotic bounty.
There is grief in Christmas and there is joy in Lent. Life is not as neat as our liturgical impositions, valuable though they may be for structure.
So as Lent begins I wonder if we might not only look deep inside ourselves for the black tar and rotting flesh and globulous fat; but might we might be so self-generous as to notice the tenderness of the lamb inside us whose celebration will have its day at Easter but who remains within us along the way of Lent. The western fetish to compartmentalize, segregate, isolate does not serve the spiritual life well. Because in the end, that smelly sludgy black evil-smelling decay we often call sin is sometimes simply the honest result of deaths in us which, though putrid, will feed the soils of our interior gardens so that the flowers plush through the earth of our lives, careening to the God whose sun warms the earth and whose Son warms our hearts.
It is soon spring, and the flowers of spring will not respect our purples and blacks. I like nature’s liturgical insubordinations. The planet is very real, very honest, very beautiful and very, very good says our scriptures. Very, very good indeed.
We are not Evil with some good in us. We are good with some evils stuck on us like leaches. Might our work of Lent be less a series of invasive operations on centers and more a matter of reaching for the can of sea-salt?