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Too many people understand newness as novelty. As a result, they are reticent to accept change in their lives. A “same ole, same ole” existence is good enough for them. It’s comfortable, soothing and affirms the adage: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
I am tempted to stay that course, as well. It is so much easier for me to deal with what is known and familiar than to address unknown, untried ideas. Yet, I have to admit, there is delight and adventure dwelling in the call to newness. There is as much excitement as there is trepidation. Imbedded in the challenge is the divine commitment to be with us as we respond to each call for newness. There is the promise of transformation in the process.
It is interesting Lent occurs during a season of change. Whether experienced in the springtime of the Northern Hemisphere or the Southern Hemisphere’s autumn, Lent happens during cusp time when we are preparing to leave one season to enter another. It accompanies a time of transition, a period that gives space and opportunity for mutation. Lent helps us to see more acutely God is always doing something new.
That newness often occurs in ways, places and circumstances we’d rather avoid. The Hebrew prophet Isaiah reminds us God is making a way in the desert, streams in the wasteland.
I am happy God is making a way. I am not so happy the way is in the desert of my life. I don’t appreciate the fact I am in a wasteland, even if God is providing streams of water there. Couldn’t the newness be experienced elsewhere, in a more conducive environment? Surely it can, but Isaiah adds a critical judgment to his comment on God’s doing a new thing. Isaiah asks, “Do you not perceive it?”
Now we come to the heart of the matter, the core of our Lenten opportunity. This is awareness time. This is our annual chance to hone our perception of God’s work in, through, and with God’s creation—humankind included.
As I type these words, a solitary pelican has landed on our dock. Rarely do we see these birds soaring over the creek waters, but they—or perhaps it is the same one—have frequently graced our dock this winter. My fondness for these creatures is evident. I call each by name. I watch delightedly as they perch with statuesque beauty, motionless in their concentration, centered in their being. They are being who they are, no more and no less. Their authenticity honors God. Their trust that food and drink will be provided honors God. Their stalwart stillness honors God.
God is present in this newness, calling me to pelican spirituality: concentrated, centered, motionless in the recognition of God’s nearness. God is calling me to be who I truly am, no more and no less.
Just when I thought I had sufficient joy, a companion pelican arrived on the scene. I pondered the specific transformation that comes with community. Side by side, alone and yet together, we are uniquely re-formed into the image and likeness of God. The call is universal. God is doing something new in all of us.
Creek creatures are not my sole resources to note newness. I have been plagued by an illness that defies resolution. Weekly reports to friends and family bear the same message: no change. One day, as I was facilitating a Bible study, I commented to the group our prayer to God for healing might need a bit of tweaking. Perhaps, I mused, we should pray for a deeper understanding of what God wants us to do with our lives as they are. The question struck me deeply. What does God want me to do with and learn from this illness that has been my desert for more than a year?
When I cramp with pain, am I to learn what others feel when I “cramp their style?”
When I try to maintain a restrictive diet, am I to comprehend what hunger means?
When fatigue prevents me from doing what I like, when I like, am I becoming one with those whose weariness is caused by obstacles they cannot overcome?
How is God making me new in the midst of the experience, the “disease” and the questions?
If I allow the questions to percolate in my being, the answer will come. If I respond to the answer, I’ll be better able to empower others to become aware of God doing a new thing with and for them in the midst of an apparently stagnant past we have dragged into our present day.
Upon sending this copy, I’ll be en route to Connecticut to celebrate two eagerly anticipated events, my granddaughter’s 16th birthday and her Confirmation, at which I am to be her sponsor—two occasions that beg for observation of divine newness.
In the midst of her excitement, will I somehow be able to convey the deeper newness that awaits her perception? How can I express what Isaiah has conveyed to all of us in a manner that will make sense to a 16-year-old? How can I connect her chronological transformation into the world of driver’s licenses, pre-adulthood, and loosened boundaries with the spiritual transformation of her choice to confirm her faith publicly?
I have only a few remaining hours to reflect on the questions—and a lifetime to live them. I have only my own faith experience, replete with the stories gleaned along the way, from which to draw. What I remember, God will “re-member” with me. The newness I have perceived and continue to detect is all I can offer, as grandmother and sponsor.
I can tell her about Peter and Polly Pelican. I can relate tales of pelican spirituality. I can invite her to come with me, in mind and heart, to the deck of God’s newness. Sit there. Be there. Watch—and see God doing a new thing, right now.
Want to join us?
Fran Salone-Pelletier has a master’s degree in theology and is the author of “Awakening to God: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives” [a trilogy of Scriptural meditations], lead chaplain at Brunswick Community Hospital, religious educator, retreat leader, lecturer and grandmother of four. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.