I think for each of us, when we think about Spring, hope bubbles up in us. We notice those first shoots of snowdrops and daffodils even though we weren’t particularly looking for them or the hope that they bring. There’s something about moving from the darkness of winter to the emerging light of Spring that lifts us. I was looking through books on Lent and came across these words from Kenneth Grahame’s ‘Wind in the Willows’…
‘The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush, and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said, “Bother!” and “O blow!” and also “Hang, spring-cleaning!” and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously… So he scraped and scratched and scribbled and scrooged, and then he scrooged again and scrabbled and scratched and scraped, working busily with his little paws and muttering to himself, “Up we go! Up we go!” till at last, pop! his snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.’
I was drawn to the words ‘penetrating even his dark and lowly house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing’ and how once Mole had a strong sense of knowing he had to emerge from the darkness into the light. I love the line ‘and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.’ It’s a strong picture of the discontent of darkness vanishing as Mole bathed in the light.
Over generations, some people have said similar things when they’ve discovered for themselves the light of faith. They’ve described a God shaped hole within them that nothing in life could quench or that they knew that there must be more to life than what they were experiencing – something was missing or maybe it’s as Kenneth Grahame describes in a ‘spirit of divine discontent and longing.’
This month the church enters into Lent – a forty day period before Easter. It’s a time of reflection, of thinking about those areas in our lives where we need help from God (though that is available every day, all year round!). It’s a time to consider our relationship with God and with other people. Lent gives us space and time to pause, reflect and enter more intentionally into the habits of prayer, self examination and repentance. But where do we begin?
Well, we need to start from where we are not where we think we should be in order to be loved or accepted. Jesus meets us where we’re at, not where we think we should be. It can be a big step in facing that reality and recognising that we probably don’t ‘measure up’ to others expectations or to our own, but to begin a journey we simply have to start from where we’re at.
This Lent, Archbishops Justin & Stephen invite us to explore how we can live well with the mess of everyday life. The Lent theme of ‘Dust and Glory’ encourages us to take a fresh look at the frustrations and failings that every day brings and, rather than pretending we can always avoid them, seek to learn from them and grow closer to God through them. They recommend a book by Bishop Emma Ineson, ‘Failure: What Jesus said about sin, mistakes and messing stuff up’. There’s free online support for groups studying the book and in-depth video interviews with Archbishop Justin and others exploring the themes of each of the chapters. A short daily reflection and prayer is also available by app, email and the Daily Hope phone line 0800 804 8044 – I’m assured that you don’t have to have read the book to use this daily reflection.
I hope this helps you as we gradually emerge from the darkness of Winter into the hope of Spring, or as Mole would say ‘from the divine discontent’ into the warmth of the grass meadow basking in light.