Sylvia rethinks Lent.

Sylvia rethinks Lent.

Sylvia sat in church the week after Ash Wednesday. She was feeling a bit disconnected, not really able to get into the stories about ashes, and pancakes, that had been part of the week. She wondered, why make pancakes and eat up all the eggs and milk, when you just had to go to the supermarket and get some more. What a silly tradition. And what if her grandchildren asked her to make her special blueberry and chocolate chip pancakes for them when they stayed the night with her? She felt that giving things up like pancakes just seemed artificial and irrelevant.

Sylvia started to wonder about Lent. The words of the opening hymn were sticking in her mind – ‘forty days and forty nights, thou wast fasting in the wild’. Well, fasting for forty days was obviously not going to work, not when she had to take her pills with food, and keep her carbohydrate intake even.

But the idea of being ‘in the wild’ for forty days, now that was appealing! Imagine a time of having none of the usual distractions, none of the shopping and the housework, or those phone calls where they said there was something wrong with the computer she didn’t have, or the noisy kids next door, none of the worry about the bills that kept coming through the letterbox, none of the doctor’s visits… Sylvia started to contemplate how she could find a wilderness to escape from her daily grind.

Well, she thought, I can get rid of the distractions. And the weather seems to be helping there – it’s getting darker in the mornings, it’s not so appealing to rush into the garden. Even the garden was winding down for autumn, flowers were finishing, leaves starting to turn..

Yes, thought Sylvia, that’s it! I’ll copy my garden! I’ll drop my leaves – get rid of what I don’t need in my life, like, like,… like chasing after friends who never call me back, and who seem content to go through their list of woes without once asking after mine. I’ll give up reading the junk mail from the shops where I never go, looking at things I don’t even want, and couldn’t afford if I did!

Yes, I’ll drop my leaves.

And then, she thought, maybe I’ll  tend myself as I tend the garden – after taking away the dead and finished  stems, I’ll mulch and compost.

How can I compost myself? She started to giggle as she thought about the last time she had turned the compost, and a shovelful had flung over her head. She remembered the worm that was still in her hair two hours later which had given her granddaughter such a fright.

Shh! Glared the couple in front of her at church.

Well, let them, Sylvia thought. They’re listening to the sermon, but I can’t really concentrate.

Yes, compost , that was it. I’ll feed my soul. I’ll read things that make me grow, I’ll listen to music that will build my faith, I’ll stop and let my roots grow deep and let God feed me. And then, maybe I’ll be like my apple tree, looking barren and lifeless but knowing that deep inside life is there, gaining strength, waiting to bring beauty and fruit.


There is a certain plant in our garden, which has very vigorous tendencies. It twines up at lightning speed, and just when you think you’ve got it all out, there’s a white trumpet flower at eye-level! Yes, it’s convolvulus, or bindweed. I discovered a huge rampant pile of this annoying plant smothering my apple tree today, and I started thinking about its tendencies.

It creeps about along the fence lines, ready to take advantage of the gardener’s inattention. It always seems to be someone else’s problem, coming through from under the fence – we always blame the neighbours for not controlling it, and they probably are grumbling about my slovenly gardening habits in allowing it to go through their fence!

It seems to me that convolvulus is a metaphor for that habit many of us suffer from, of blaming other people. It’s so easy to try and shift all blame away from ourselves, rather than stand accountable for what we have done, or why we have done it, or what we have not done. Just as we all try to blame the next-door gardeners for the weeds coming under (or over) the fence, we all try to blame someone else, rather than stand up and face the music.

But with God we can stand up and be judged, because Jesus has taken our punishment. We can pull out our own convolvulus, and instead of grumbling about it being there, we can thank God for the pretty white flowers that alert us to its presence – hopefully before it completely strangles the apple tree!

There are some blessings with this plant – the kids like to pop the flowers off, and call them ‘granny-pops’. The other blessing is that the rabbits eat them! Now all I’ve got to do is train the rabbits to climb the trees!

Have a look at my favourite song about Bindweed!