The late priest and spiritual writer Henri Nouwen would have seen this as appropriate.
“The season of Lent, during which winter and spring struggle with each other for dominance, helps us in a special way to cry out for God’s mercy,” Nouwen wrote.
This weekend’s forecast was for sunnier, milder weather.
No doubt the cold will return, at least in brief intervals, before long.
The metaphor of the seasonal struggle is a useful reminder that our own internal spiritual battles are never fully settled. We must tend to our waywardness, because all of us – even the most spiritually disciplined – are prone to wander, following the lures of the world instead of the voice of God.
This is the heart of Lent: Coming to grips with the cycle of sin and repentance, and acknowledging the reality of one and the necessity of the other in our lives.
The spiritual struggles we all face are not resolved by a single momentous decision but by a myriad of seemingly small choices. Here’s Nouwen again, this time in a prayer: “I know that Lent is going to be a very hard time for me. The choice for your way has to be made every moment of my life. I have to choose thoughts that are your thoughts, words that are your words. There are no times or places without choices. And I know how deeply I resist choosing you.”
What do we choose instead? Nouwen would suggest not notorious sins for most of us but rather “my own desires and ... voices that speak about prestige, success, human respect, pleasure, power and influence.” Most of these the world says are desirable, but God knows that pursuing them is, ultimately, a sure road to spiritual depletion and gnawing disappointment and discontent.
It is these with which the spiritual struggle is joined, and which the penitential Lenten season is vitally concerned. “Help me,” prays Nouwen, “to become deaf to these voices and more attentive to your voice, which calls me to choose the narrow road to life.”
Observance of Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter, is for those churches that mark it a way of emphasizing the impossibility of resurrection and new life without suffering and sacrifice.
For Jesus, that suffering was public humiliation, abandonment by his friends and a prolonged and agonizing death.
For us, it is less about physical pain and more about losing our lives as we have crafted them by worldly standards of success in order to gain the abundant life which Jesus promised.
This begins with two things: Recognition of our need for God’s mercy as sinners, followed by repentance and redirection.
These must happen over and over. The struggle is ever-present. But the road leads to Easter joy.