Change is hard. It provokes anxiety and uneasiness as what is familiar to us disappears. Growth is hard, too. It makes us feel different—sometimes awkward as we adjust to a new way of being in the world. Change and growth are also necessary in our lives—without them, we would stagnate and die. This month, we’ll be exploring change and growth from a number of different points of view.
Nature provides us all of the examples we need about how to deal with growth and change. Whatever time of year it is, the world around us is not the same place from day to day. Last month, I wrote about the crocuses in my front yard heralding the arrival of spring. By the time you read this, those hundreds of tiny purple, yellow and white flowers will be only a memory. Other things will have started to bloom in their place, no less beautiful, but different. Soon to come will be the lushness of summer, and then, ultimately, the blaze of autumn and another winter (but not too soon, I hope).
As I’m writing this in mid-March, heavy rains have just left behind flood-swollen rivers and creeks all over our region. I know that some of us found those creeks as unwelcome visitors in our houses. As the waters recede, they leave a changed landscape to which the rest of nature will adapt. Beavers will rebuild their dams. Plants will move into newly-cleared out soil. We will devise better structures to keep the water out of our houses.
Growth in the garden requires a special kind of attention. This month, the soil that nurtured last year’s bounty of vegetables in my backyard will need to be replenished with fertile compost so that a new crop can grow in it. Seeds will be started indoors, placed in a warm sunny window, and watered with care.
Personal growth and change require vigilance, adaptation and care, too. We must hold on to what is good even as we become something better. We must deal with disappointment and failure, and learn to do better. We must tend to ourselves, nourishing our spirits and replenishing our souls. And for all of these things, our Fellowship exists.
Today in worship, we honored the ancient Persian celebration of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, which happens on the first day of spring. It is one of the many celebrations that are part of the cultures from which our Fellowship community comes. I look forward to honoring the cultural traditions of other families in our Fellowship in the future.
As part of this celebration, we thought about how we can renew our lives and the relationships in them, how we can forgive ourselves and others, and how we can commit to doing better to keep resentment, hatred, bitterness and evil out of our lives in the year ahead. We thought about family relationships (chosen and not) that have become distant and need to be brought closer.
One Iranian tradition on this day is the reading of poetry by Hafiz, the 14th century Persian poet. The poem below was our opening reading, and it has been going through my mind all day. ”I know the way you can get when you have not had a drink of Love,” writes Hafiz. And indeed, we all know how we get when we have not been imbibing large enough quantities of love.
It strikes me that one of the very best ways we can commit to reducing the evil in our world–to reducing hatred, resentment, bitterness and brokenness–is to make our love flow like an endless fountain, quenching the thirst of all who seek it. This is my wish for all of us in the coming year: May our love reach all who need to drink deeply from it.
I Know The Way You Can Get
From: ‘I Heard God Laughing – Renderings of Hafiz’ Translated by Daniel Ladinsky
I know the way you can get
When you have not had a drink of Love:
Your face hardens,
Your sweet muscles cramp.
Children become concerned
About a strange look that appears in your eyes
Which even begins to worry your own mirror
Squirrels and birds sense your sadness
And call an important conference in a tall tree.
They decide which secret code to chant
To help your mind and soul.
Even angels fear that brand of madness
That arrays itself against the world
And throws sharp stones and spears into
And into one’s self.
O I know the way you can get
If you have not been drinking Love:
You might rip apart
Every sentence your friends and teachers say,
Looking for hidden clauses.
You might weigh every word on a scale
Like a dead fish.
You might pull out a ruler to measure
From every angle in your darkness
The beautiful dimensions of a heart you once
I know the way you can get
If you have not had a drink from Love’s
That is why all the Great Ones speak of
The vital need
To keep remembering God,
So you will come to know and see Him
As being so playful
Just wanting to help.
That is why Hafiz says:
Bring your cup near me.
For all I care about
Is quenching your thirst for freedom!
All a sane man can ever care about
Is giving Love!
The beginning of February marks the midway point between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox, a time celebrated as Imbolc by those who follow ancient European Earth-centered traditions. I don’t know about you, but February is the hardest month of the year for me. Luckily, it’s also the shortest! It’s cold outside. I’m weary from shoveling snow. Winter has been dragging on for what seems like an eternity, and spring does not feel close enough yet.
I think Pagan folks have the right idea, then. Light candles and enjoy the sacred light and warmth that they bring. Build fires in our fireplaces if we’re lucky enough to have them. Notice all of the things around us that herald the return of the Sun–the lengthening of the days, the scurrying of squirrels, the relentless obsession with weather-prognosticating rodents, the puddles of melting snow that re-freeze every night. The word “Imbolc” itself comes from the recognition that this is the time of year when the ewes would begin lactating–a sure sign of the renewal of life.
I decided last fall to plant a pot full of tulip bulbs and stash it in the vegetable crisper in my fridge. I’ve taken them out, and soon will have tulips blooming in the dining room. My pot of sprouting tulips reminds me that spring is right around the corner. Soon, the crocuses in the front yard will be poking their heads through the remaining snow. Tulips are not that far off. They also remind me that all of this cold has a purpose–without it, the tulips wouldn’t bloom. What I forced to happen with three months in the refrigerator, nature does by itself. We might get weary of all that snow, but because of it, we will soon have tulips.