“The Winter That Wasn’t” declared a headline from The Blade, Toledo’s newspaper. And it’s true. Ohio and many other Midwestern states have seen lower-than-average amounts of snowfall and higher-than-average temperatures, during the months of December, January, and February. Oh sure, it’s still been cold and dreary and windy, but no doubt, we seem to have mostly escaped the bitterness of Winter: deep-freezes and heavy snowfalls and ice-covered roads and sidewalks.
As a result, it has been easy to think ahead to Spring — aided, of course, by early blooms and the occasional chorus of birds. As much as I love Spring, it almost feels to me like we really don’t deserve it this year; that, somehow, we haven’t “earned the right” to enjoy the re-blossoming of Mother Nature. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I don’t want Spring to come. It’s just that part of the excitement of receiving a gift is experiencing a longing for it. And the Winter of 2011/12 hasn’t thus far exactly created in me a deep longing for Spring.
But the arrival of the season of Lent has “picked up the slack,” so to speak. Lent should make us long for Easter. Lent (derived from the Anglo-Saxon words lencten, meaning “Spring,” and lenctentid, meaning “March”) challenges us to step out from our everyday lives to discover peace. Peace is what Lent is really about. Losing weight, praying better, being more kind — these may be consequences of our Lenten disciplines; but we’ve missed the point of Lent if we haven’t experienced a renewal in our spirits from having lived more for God and others, and less for ourselves.
Winter 2011/12 may be the “Winter That Wasn’t,” but Lent/Easter 2012 can be the “Church Seasons That Were.” New life, even now, awaits us all.