One of my favorite stories serves as a wonderful preface to Ash Wednesday and the practice of Lent.
A person seeking spiritual growth goes to a nearby abbey to speak with its abbot. They tell the abbot of their interest and ask for his help. The abbot tells them to come back the next day at noon and be prepared to do whatever he tells them to do without question.
Noon sharp the next day this seeker arrives ready to do as the abbot directs. The first task he assigns is for the seeker to go outside and stand in the courtyard with arms raised to heaven till the abbot tells them to stop.
Puzzled but willing to give it a try our seeker does as directed. Quickly, however, the wind whips up and blows a strong storm in. But the abbot does not call our seeker in.
Rain lashes the seeker. But the abbot does not call them in.
Thoroughly drenched and miserable, the seeker looks toward the abbot’s window. Still no sign was given for them to come in out of the weather.
Finally, just as the seeker was ready to give up, the sign came for them to come in. Frustrated and angry, the seeker demands to know why this ordeal was necessary and how it relates to their desire for spiritual growth.
“How do you feel?” the abbot asks.
“Like a damn fool!” the seeker yells.
“Good,” replies the abbot. “I think you’ve learned enough for today.”