by Katy Sundararajan
Last Friday, from my office window, I could see wind whipping the tablecloths laid out for the Spring Fling picnic in the Hope College Pine Grove. Winter has hung on for dear life this year, and it rather surprised me to realize this end-of-the-year party had shown up on time, the week before finals and beckoning forth another graduation. It might have been a cold party, but the sun shone, and I’ve never know the Hope students to ditch Spring Fling. No, they come out in droves, blinking somewhat blindly into the shocking, shiny light of Spring’s sudden arrival and this first picnic of the year.
Earlier in the week I had been thinking about Spring Fling and its feelings of raw wonder and breathless gratitude at having (almost) made it through another school year combined with actual green grass beneath your feet and the watery cool breezes of April.
One of the students in the Peer Group I facilitate at Western Theological Seminary had brought these feelings all to mind as she talked about packing up her apartment even while rushing headlong into finals while on the brink of a summer internship. There is a wild feeling there that contains all the fear of not making it through, added to the uncertainty of a new thing next, and pasted oddly together by a room taken apart and boxed up for a journey. Academic life and institutional calendars provide a very cyclical nature to approaching and experiencing new things. Yet somehow, I felt it to be true, when my student expressed the jumble within her own self, that so often when we look something new in the face we are equally surprised by its newness.
It happens sometimes, that when something new comes along, we can be so unaware of our deep, deep longing for it that it shocks the socks off us when it arrives, even when we might have been expecting that new thing. Do you understand what I mean? Perhaps, with our heads down, moving insistently toward our next due date, striding willfully toward the end of a gray period, maybe pacing through a difficult patch in a relationship, or a bleak season of faith, perhaps this is when we are actually chasing something new, but are shocked to see it arrive.
Maybe because I’m in west Michigan, I feel those white-light early days of Spring as though they’re a skateboarder jumping the curb into a line of traffic. I really do squint my eyes at the rarity of this “new” brightness even though the sun has always been here and I’ve basked in it many Springs before. Yes, west Michigan and the sun; it is something to obsess over, and still, we’re shocked when it arrives.
We crave newness, and I think we crave it deep down in the depths of our souls. It is because of this craving that we come gladly to church on Easter morning to celebrate the risen Lord. We’ve likely said, “He is risen, indeed!” countless times, over countless years, but our souls crave the awesome newness that we encounter on Easter morning each and every year. Oh, how we need that bright new message after we’ve passed through lent and holy week. Even if we know it is coming, and we have craved the new message to be true, we respond with an awe, like surprise, that the new truth is true.
Last fall, a beautiful album of music was released called “The Porter’s Gate Worship Project”. Two members of the Western Seminary faculty and staff participated in the album and the greater project that explored Christianity and Vocation. I’m certain that many of you already know about this, and that many more of you would be thrilled to learn more. And while I could share more, the real reason I bring it up is to mention a song from the album called “Father, Let Your Kingdom Come” that has been streaming through my heart and mind as I think about seasons and newness.
Sometimes we are pushing so hard to get to the end of something, teeth gritted, just trying to scrape through to the other side, that a new thing takes us breathtakingly by surprise. Sometimes we are so fully stuck in forward momentum that we have to be nudged to see the newness.
I hope you will listen to “Father, Let You Kingdom Come,” and that you will listen all the way to the lingering, longing, expectant refrain of “You make all things new.” You will be glad. You may be nudged. It has nudged me to notice, albeit with somewhat squinty, awestruck eyes, that God is indeed making all things brand new. Every season, and every day. God makes all things new.