Spring does come

Winter is long, especially if you live in a place where "cold" means temperatures below freezing -- and not just at night or for a day or two. That's why the etymology of the word "Lent" used to make me laugh. "Spring" in Middle English or any other language never made much sense because shoveling snow was almost always among the penitential acts built into the season.

Remember the winter when storms dumped a significant amount of snow almost every Wednesday for several weeks in a row? The accumulation on our roof reached a depth of more than five feet. I'm not exactly sure how Andrew hoisted the snow thrower up there -- I was too anxious to watch him do it -- but I'll never forget seeing all that snow spraying down onto the driveway. That year, the enormous plow mountains in shopping center parking lots took months to melt. I even found a small patch of the white stuff lingering in a shaded area at the beginning of July!

Winter -- and Lent -- can seem very long indeed. And when they do, it's hard to avoid feeling trapped where we are, with no way to move forward. That's when we need to remember that whether the groundhog sees his shadow or not, spring comes regardless. At first, it may not be very sunny or warm, but the seasons do change. A freak snowstorm might come in April or even May. But winter cannot remain with us forever. The processes that brought it to us also take it away.

There are also seasons in our lives, seasons when everything is warm and wonderful, when new life sprouts and fresh flowers bloom. But we also experience times when life feels cold and harsh, when one more storm might just push us over the edge, when all we have hoped for seems forever out of reach. That is often when God draws closest to us.

So many of us work and work, hoping to climb or push through, get under or around the obstacles we face. But the Lord says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest" (Mt 11:28). Sometimes, rest is what we need most of all, especially when it becomes clear that our efforts aren't always the answer to our problems.

When we finally arrive at that realization, Jesus invites us to put our snow shovels down and come inside to wait for the warmth of his life-giving love. Instead of putting on yet another layer to battle the cold, Christ reassures us that winter cannot last and that, in him, we will find an everlasting spring.

Lent is the gift of spring for hearts that are weathered and worn, for those who are tired of wandering in the wilderness or shivering in the cold. It's a time for leveling the ground we stand on and pruning all that previous winters have destroyed. By focusing on the simple essentials of our faith, Lent gives us all the chance to deepen our roots before we attempt to stretch upward again.

The snow may be deep now, but spring does come. And whether your strawberries are ready to be picked in early April or don't ripen until the end of June, there will be strawberries. Lent is here now in full force, but Easter is coming. The spiritual spring we hope for and need is already happening unseen, beneath the snow. The seed of Christ's Resurrection has already awakened in our souls. God's grace warms every heart, and the transforming power of that grace will melt every winter into spring, every hurt into healing, and every loss into new life.

- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and provides freelance editorial services to numerous publishers and authors as the principal of One More Basket. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.