Well, here we are again. Lent. As we slip through winter days of snow and ice, with Christmas decorations once again stored safely away, Lent has a way of sneaking up on me every year. When I think of Easter, I imagine shoeless kids running through sun-drenched yards getting grass stains on the knees of their Sunday best; the glow of new life springing up all around us. This, however, is not what I see when I look out the window today. It is grey. Grey sky. Grey snow. Everything is frozen, grey and dead. Or so it would seem. Lurking just beneath the surface, there is life, waiting, holding its breath, waiting.
It amazes me how finely tuned a world our Creator has made. I could watch nature shows for days on end, marveling at the complex web of interdependence which has been spun all around us. And in the season of Lent, this physical world mirrors the invisible yet tangible reality of our spiritual journey. These forty days of self-denying greyness are reflected in the greyness of winter’s dying breath. (Unless you live in some unnatural tropical paradise of course, which just means you aren’t as spiritual as the rest of us. We would move to Hawaii or California but then I don’t want to miss out on all those spiritual insights that snow, ice and frostbite bring.)
When I wake up to chilly floors and fingers that can never quite get warm, my heart whispers “Hold on. Spring is coming. Hold on. The sun is closer today than it was yesterday.” When I stare longingly at the empty places on my phone where for the next several weeks my Netflix and Amazon Video apps will not be, a voice says “Hold on. They will be back.” And yet all this longing and waiting points to a deeper anticipation of joy yet experienced, longing never fulfilled. For spring and summer will pass and bleed into fall and winter and once again we will miss the warmth and green the sun brings. But one day, the Son will return and bring with Him an everlasting life that will never turn cold.
So I will wait. Staring out my window at the grey, holding fast to the promise that it won’t last forever. I sit here wearing the sign of the cross on my forehead, appropriately, in ash grey. This cross is made from the ashes of last year’s palm branches, connecting Palm Sunday’s shouts of “Hosanna” to Good Friday’s cries of “Crucify him!” and looking forward to Easter’s “He is risen.” Like our Savior, today I wear a cross so that one day I can wear a crown.