The Fertility of Barrenness


I begin this year’s Lent journey with a confession of failure. The photo above shows you what has become of the indoor garden I hoped would sustain me in these last weeks of winter as my ice bound soul longs for signs of spring and life.

Let me explain. Some of my plant bed soil must have had aphid eggs in it. When they began hatching in mid January I checked and sprayed them diligently with a soapy spray. The aphids resisted and multiplied. In late February, I picked the last bowl of lettuce, removed the houseplants, opened the windows, and let the freezing temperatures accomplish what I couldn’t and got rid of the aphids.

Now, all that is left of my winter garden are dried vines and leaves. Hints of green remain, but my plant beds look pretty dead. Thoughts of proudly providing my own winter greens have been cut back to humbler hopes.

However, the mulch of this gardening experiment will provide nutrients and retain moisture for a new cycle of plants; early indoor greens and potatoes as well as onions, tomatoes, and herbs for the outdoor garden.

Perhaps that’s a good place for my garden to be at the beginning of Lent. It helps me recognize the importance of admitting my failings, of praying for and trusting in extra help for rooting out pesky sins, of learning from failures and using what I’ve learned as nutrient rich and protective mulch for moving forward in my life of living into God’s dream.

This morning our staff gathered for worship to begin the Lenten season. We prayed: “In this Lenten season, O God, we come before you, asking for courage to open our eyes. We want to see ourselves as you see us: the dry and barren places, the half hearted struggles, the faint stirrings of new life.

Open our eyes, to also see your life-giving spirit that quenches all thirst… Call us by your grace…from the comfort  of satisfied plenty to experience real thirst.

Call us back to quench that thirst with your life giving presence. AMEN. Adapted from Words for Worship, #33.

May it be so, for us in the offices of Mennonite Church Canada and for you, wherever you are, in whatever circumstances you find yourself. Christ offers to slake all our thirsts with his life giving water. Lent can help us that water and newness of life.


About Elsie Hannah Ruth Rempel

As a young senior whose life could easily have ended in a nasty car crash in 2012 I live with an extra dose of gratitude to God, humanity, and the wonders of our human bodies. I am a passionate advocate for ministry WITH children and seniors in the life and ministry of the church. I started working in Faith Formation with Mennonite Church Canada in 2002. Thinking and writing about faith helps me see God at work in all kinds of surprising places. I'd like to be remembered as one who encourages others to live into God's good dream for our world. My book, Please Pass the Faith: The Spiritual Art of Grandparenting, is one big way I'm trying to share that encouragement with my peers. This blog is another way I'd like to engage people who care about growing in faith across the generations.
This entry was posted in Church season, Congregational life, Creation Care, Gardening, Lent and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Fertility of Barrenness

  1. Hi,Elsi, herzliche Gruesse aus Neuwied. Ich wünsche Euch alles Gute. Gruss Juergen.

  2. Elsie Hannah Ruth Rempel says:

    Vielen dank, Juergen! Euch auch.

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