Yesterday and today we’ve had our windows open for the first time since the fall. Every single year, the first signs of spring’s upcoming arrival fill me with so much hope, joy, and anticipation.
The birds have come back and have started chirping again. We have a couple of cardinals that have made their home in our backyard, and their daily songs are so incredibly beautiful and peaceful. The air feels alive and smells so fresh. Even though it’s only in the mid-40s, it feels SO warm after weeks of frigid temperature and snow. And the snow is finally starting to melt and tiny patches of grass are coming back to life.
I was pondering all of this yesterday and thinking about how much joy these tiny changes bring me and I realized that if I hadn’t experienced winter, the arrival of spring wouldn’t mean so much.
There is something about the barrenness and death of winter that reawakens our soul to all that is good, true, and beautiful. It’s as if we need to be stripped bare to be reminded of what it means to live again.
Winter is what teaches us that our seasons of barrenness, when all seems dead and lost in our life, are actually the seasons the Lord uses to draw us back to him and reawaken our deadened senses. Winter is nature’s form of fasting.
Perhaps that is the beauty and wisdom of the Lenten season as well. The sacrifices, fasting, almsgiving, and extra prayers we are asked to make during this liturgical season are meant to reawaken us to the beauty of the Resurrection. If you are anything like me, you probably fall into ruts in your prayer life. Weeks might go by where your prayer was nothing more than mechanical and habitual. Mass can even become nothing more than a series of motions. I know that I can go through weeks, months, even when I feel lethargic in my prayer, numb in my spiritual life, and empty in my relationship with God. And I have always loved that Lent has been a time for me to challenge myself to change. Somehow, giving up something for Lent has the opportunity of filling us with something much greater. The saints have always taught us about the power and graces that come from fasting. Denying our body temporal desires is a way of resetting our spiritual life. It’s precisely how we reorient our desires. It’s through the stripping away that the roots are revealed and we are offered the chance of replanting them if we have been letting them grow in the shallow soil.
But more than that, it’s through the stripping away of good things that we learn to see life through the eyes of childlike wonder and awe. Experiencing months of the dead of winter is the very reason we marvel so much at the beauty and life of spring. And experiencing the season of Lent is what gives us the ability to understand the mystery of the Resurrection in a new light and wonder at the mercy and love of our God.
As I’ve typed this, the birds outside my window have continued their simple hymns of praise and thanksgiving, a continual reminder that winter is almost over and spring is on its way.
But if the birds hadn’t fallen silent during winter, I probably wouldn’t have noticed their beautiful melodies these past few days. And so I praise God for winter and Lent, and I wonder at the fact that every living thing speaks of the truth and goodness of God.