Once a year we splash out and buy fresh woodchip for our chickens. The aim is to keep the chickens off the bare soil to help them stay healthy and clean. The only problem, of course, is that eventually the woodchip rots, and this year the woodchip has become so wet and heavy as to be almost indistinguishable from the sea of mud. So this week we have taken charge of a new delivery. That means a couple of days of heavy work as all the old woodchip needs to be taken off and dumped, and the new woodchip wheeled on off the drive.
We are talking here about a lorry load of the stuff, so it’s not something that can be moved quickly. And, yes, it’s hard work, but it’s worth it. There’s nothing better than birds enjoying the sunshine working their way through the fresh woodchip.
Maybe there’s a bit of a picture to help us understand what Lent is all about. No matter how much we try to keep in step with the Spirit, we all build up layers of spiritual grime and muck that we need to deal with. It can be hard work disciplining ourselves to actually sort out our inner life, and do some serious business with the Lord. But that’s what repentance is all about.
When King David wanted to purchase what would later become the site of the temple in Jerusalem, the original owner tried to give him whatever he wanted for free. But David insisted on payment: I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing. (2 Sam 24:24). I do worry that so often we turn Lent into something that actually costs us, if not nothing, then certainly very little. Yes, we give up chocolate but that’s no real hardship in the grand scheme of things. Yes, we set out to do something spiritually positive, but really when the going gets tough, we tend to give up as if it didn’t really matter that much.
I have just crawled over the halfway point with this Lent blog, and I’m aware I am several days behind. It would in the circumstances be tempting to let it drop amid the business of each week. But maybe if there’s a cost involved in keeping going, that’s the whole point. After all, Lent involves a journey to the cross, and that is where all of us are heading.