Tilling the Soil of My Heart

gardening - turning the soil with garden hoe - photo by Greta Hoffman from Pexels

When I was a child, I thought of Lent as a gloomy time. This was partly because where I grew up, the weather at that time of year was dark and dreary. Nearly every day, the clouds would hang low to the ground, emitting a misty drizzle that would coat my eyelashes. More than once, I would arrive at my classroom with my yellow raincoat and plaid jumper caked in mud after I slipped off the wet granite stepping stones marking the path to the school. Perhaps my perception of Lent as gloomy was also rooted in my focus on Jesus’ Death, forgetting in my youthfulness that death does not have the final say.

When, sometime later, I learned that root of the word Lent refers to the “lengthening” of days or “springtime,” my perception of this liturgical season changed. We need the chartreuse newness of springtime. We need the fragrant blossoms adorning the earth. We need the restorative warmth of the sun in the same way that we need for the Lenten journey not to end at Jesus’ Crucifixion. And so this year, I’m embracing Lent anew. I’m going to do some gardening in the garden of my heart.

Tilling the Soil

We ask the Holy Spirit to be with us as we dig deeper into the place where our relationship with Jesus grows.

When we till the soil, we break through the hard surface layer, break up the clumps of soil, and remove the rocks and old roots. What has hardened my heart? What clumps block the way when I try to open my heart to Jesus? What stones am I coming across?

What old roots am I getting tangled up in as I try to grow my relationship with Jesus? Are there any bad habits that have taken root within me? Are there places where I need forgiveness or healing? Am I holding fast to any untrue beliefs that I need to discard, such as God doesn’t care; I could never be forgiven for…; or I’m not deserving of forgiveness?

How can I nourish the seed of the Word of God in my heart? Perhaps I need to acknowledge that I need God’s help to soften the hardness and get rid of the stones and clumps that block growth. Maybe I need to be intentional about reserving the time in my busy schedule to be silent and talk with Jesus. Perhaps I need to revisit the Sacrament of Reconciliation or talk with a spiritual friend or spiritual director. Maybe some spiritual reading would be helpful.

Talk with Jesus

If you cultivate the garden of your own heart with similar reflections, imagine yourself sitting and talking with Jesus about your answers. Try to be as honest as you would with your best friend or someone who truly and completely loves you. If what you’re feeling seems unpleasant, do not be afraid of offending Jesus. You can be brutally honest and completely confident that Jesus will remain, listening to you and loving you, no matter what.

Notice any emotions that arise as you reflect on these questions. St. Ignatius believed that emotions could reveal where God is leading us. These are places where God wants to heal, encourage, or direct us. As you notice your emotions, talk with Jesus about them.

If you are not feeling much at all, that’s OK. Ask Jesus if there’s anything he would like to reveal to you that you might be holding deep inside that is not serving you well. If you’re feeling distracted, don’t judge yourself; just talk about that. This prayer time is all about honesty in the dialogue.

Now, listen. What do you hear in response?

Photo by Greta Hoffman from Pexels.


  1. A nourishing and uplifting reflection, appropriate for the Holy Week. I will pop at it daily until Good Friday to be in touch with myself, I want to till the soil. Thanks for the inspiration and looking at Lent with a positive mindset

  2. Thanks Rebecca. Good effort. Contains profound food for thought, prayer and action. Wishes for a prayer-filled Holy Week.

  3. ‘Digging’, a poem by Seamus Heaney springs to mind. Do you know it?
    Thank you for your well-chosen words, which match his own, in a slightly different context.

    As a wordsmith, every word, every phrase I write,
    counts. Much of my writing is Christian-orientated,
    so when I found myself stuck for inspiration,
    who do I turn to?…

    • Hi Sandra,
      Thank you for sharing. I had not known “Digging” but just read it and it is beautifully descriptive. Heaney’s words, “The cold smell of potato mould,” put me right there in that garden! Blessings on your Lenten journey.

  4. Very nice, Rebecca! I too need to rethink of Lent and Sprig more positively. This is good advice and a great insight. Hopefully I will find the time… thank you!

    • Hi Marcia,
      Thank you. Praying you find the time – and the time to enjoy, as Alice so eloquently put it (below), “Springs glorious display and the extravagant graces of a loving God!” Peace.

  5. Thanks Rebecca. I too do not look forward to Lent. However you spoke about doing some “gardening in the garden of my heart”. I enjoy gardening and watching the earth spring to life with a little tender, loving care. That touched a chord in me and now I want to see Lent in a new light after I have done a little tilling in my own life. This year I had begun Lent with a determination to grow in God’s love. I had just begun to lack lustre in my determination, when I read your article, and hey presto I have a new zeal. Thanks once again and God bless all of us.

  6. I’m glad we had a Retreat that helped us prepare to really till the soil for the abundance of Springs glorious display and the extravagant graces of a loving God Thank you. Blessings Alice

    • Hi Alice!
      I am glad of this too! What a wonderful retreat – will be harvesting the graces for a long time. I am ready for that “glorious display!” Peace and blessings.

  7. Hi Rebecca: This has been the first Lent where I have made a conscious effort to pray the Examen, use my notes from SPA Retreats I have attended at Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, (Suburban Akron), OH as provided by Rev. Donald J. Petkash, SJ. I have also used the Ignatian Spirituality Daily Newsletter. To keep me focused.

    And my dear colleague Rebecca, COVID prevenged our trav el to
    Aldie, VA to visit our som and his famiy. I am not sure when, but I will notify you when that time occurs, HAVE AN EASTER BLESSED WITH HIS PRESENCE.

  8. I really was moved by this image of Lent.
    I’ve always enjoyed my garden and the idea of preparing for Easter and Spring by tending new growth in the garden is fitting.
    Yes there are rocks and old roots that need to be dug out!

    • Hi Frances,
      I’m glad you found it helpful. Indeed, all of our gardens have those rocks and root masses! Blessings to you as you cultivate your garden.


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