Yes, you are now reading soul gardening tips from a neighbor who also has weeds growing. Take heart, you and this neighbor who salutes you over the fence are not alone. As Lent draws near thoughts of self-reform or self-improvements come to mind. Some may think they already missed their new year’s resolutions so why not use Lent to restart? It is really about something far deeper and more profound but if your new year’s resolutions were to get moving in holiness then yes, you can use Lent to start over.
Did you know Lent means springtime?
Springtime is such a lovely word and conjures up delightful thoughts of snow melting, blossoms finally bursting forth and life returning to the blighted winter landscape. So why does the word Lent bother us but not the word springtime? It’s a question that deserves some of our time and an honest answer.
If springtime is so positive in our minds then let’s go with that word association for now. Why not encourage ourselves on the spiritual path rather than discourage?
Springtime is the perfect time to renew one’s garden. The garden is a great analogy for our souls. Our soul, or inner garden, is our own hortus conclusus. That’s Latin for enclosed garden. It’s also a name for the Virgin Mary. So as we sidestep our defensive wall around Lent, let’s instead step into our inner springtime garden and see what winter has left behind. If you live in a snowy climate you know the patience required until the spring thaw when you can get outside and enjoy nature. For some of us, the winter may have been in our hearts, not just our backyards. If the heart is frozen and stony, then it’s time to let the spiritual thaw begin.
“If today you hear His voice harden not your hearts” Hebrews 3:15
Let spring in!
As you take in the sweet potential of all that moist earth around you, do you also see any damage from the winter storms in your life? Starting with a positive image let’s imagine our gardens bursting forth with gorgeous flowers, bushes covered in blossoms and happy honey bees, fruit trees showing plump buds and new blossoms laden with perfume. Ah! Life! Let’s focus on how we can get a garden bursting with beauty, the fragrance of sanctity, and new life.
In order for things to grow, you know you are going to need good soil. Flowers need room to breathe and grow just as you do. A first step will be to form a game plan and move through the steps until the Easter springtime bursts forth in your inner garden. We know our goal is that gorgeous, fresh garden rife with blooms so that image will be what draws us through our game plan steps and keeps us motivated. Keep your eye on Easter and you will stay motivated and focused on transforming your inner garden from cold, hard and weed infested to one that is soft, rich and yielding an abundant blaze of flowers or virtues.
Garden Game Plan: Pray and Survey | Enlist help and jump in
Smart farmers and gardeners always start with prayer. What is prayer? St. Teresa of Avila says it’s conversation between friends. So ask your best friend, the Holy Spirit, who happens to be your Master Gardener by the way, and find out how He wants to direct you this springtime.
“Holy Spirit! How can I best serve you this springtime? And Holy Spirit, please let me know where you want me to start and what to do. I want to grow closer to you but, so many roots, weeds, rocks and thorns are blocking my sweet inner garden. Please help me, Holy Spirit, I can’t do this alone. Please send help!”
Pray and Survey
Start with surveying your garden. Once you and your Master Gardener see where the areas of concern are, make a decision to choose one or two areas and get started. My garden out back is divided into different flower beds by winding stone paths. I cannot attack it all at once but must choose one flower bed at a time. That is a real patience builder. What are some flower beds in our hearts? Perhaps we have a family area, a work area, a faith or religion area, a finance area, a physical area. Think about what is in your inner garden and label the sections. Notice the dark places. The Holy Spirit will give you plenty of light and ideas about what to call those zones and which ones need speedy attention or rescue.
The just one shall flourish like the palm tree,
like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow.
They that are planted in the house of the LORD
shall flourish in the courts of our God.
Ask for help
If your heart is still in deep freeze from hurts, lack of forgiveness or a deep period of isolation, ask the Holy Spirit to warm you up and help you thaw out. Sometimes when we feel our fingers freeze in cold weather we know that they may ache or outright hurt when we come inside and start warming up. Don’t let the fear of the thaw keep you in ice chains. Remember our bountiful garden image. Keep walking towards that. If the Holy Spirit thinks you need a helper, He will send someone or help you find the right garden assistant.
Perhaps you have a close friend that can come alongside you and lend an ear so you can vent the hurts that are inside. Or you may need a kindly, holy priest who can give you sage spiritual direction and help you get your garden in tip top shape by using the miracle working power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Think of that as your weed killer/eradicator and fertilizer for new growth of better things like healing, virtue and peace.
So you have surveyed, identified the areas of both good and bad, and have jumped in garden gloves and all. Good for you. What is next? How about clearing the weeds? What are weeds in our spiritual, inner garden anyway? Weeds are the outgrowth of original sin and the roots go deep, all the way back past our own conception to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Yes, weeds are that serious. You’ll never get them all out so do not set yourself up for failure or lose hope. But you can get rid of the majority of them with God’s loving assistance. The Lord is standing there with his gardening togs on day and night just waiting to help you get that brilliant Easter garden going.
His Mother Mary is also reputed to love the garden and many of the mystics say she loved roses as well. Why not ask her to help you? Moms love helping their kids. You can imagine that Mary would have tended at least a vegetable garden to help feed and sustain the Holy Family. Being without original sin, she must have had far more patience than us and used her great graces of diligence and intelligence to bring the best out of the earth. Why not ask for her gentle but amazingly strong help? I’m sure she’d be delighted to help get the inner garden all fixed up to celebrate her Son’s resurrection at Easter.
Next time we will deal with weeds in our cherished inner gardens. Now go sow some hope and get busy planning your new and improved springtime experience. Remember the Big 3! Click here for great ideas on Lenten Fasting, Prayer, and Almsgiving (also called Charity)!
© 2019 Frances Peterson
Photos are the property of this author and are used with full permission.
Psalm 92 taken from the USCCB Daily Readings online: