by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM June 4, 2023
In her poem, Hurricane, Mary Oliver wisely observes that, “for some things there are no wrong seasons.” Here in the Northeast, we’ve passed through a soggy early spring with constant showers that offered a wake-up call to buried seeds. So I suppose at this time I should be writing about the wild black raspberry blossoms opening on the vine or the energetic chirping of early rising cardinals and jays. But we find ourselves in a time of relentless dryness where the ground has become like concrete after several weeks without any moisture, a drought compounded by temperatures baking the soil.
What I’m noticing now instead of lush growth is that the leaves of the wild honeysuckle bush have curled up in an effort to conserve water. The delicate petals of the columbine simply let go and tumble to earth ahead of their expected timetable. Boisterous flocks of birds chatter in the morning, yes, but curtail their music and become more muted in the heat of the day. With no soaking rain to coax the robins’ favorite earthworms above ground, the birds’ plumpness has given way to a rather svelte appearance. Amazingly, even the raucous crows quiet themselves and ration their cawing after noon. Clearly, this is not the time for complex murmurations or extravagant blooming. This has turned into a season for conserving, noticing, adapting to the wrinkles in our expectations.
We may sometimes find ourselves in a desert season–the arid times, when God seems silent or pretty close to absent or, as one person described it, “It’s like we’re living in a huge mansion with many rooms; we sense the other is there but we simply don’t bump into each other or catch sight of one another.” The parched times, when any outward sense of growth of the spirit seems to shrivel. The barren times, when prayer feels like an exercise in futility, as if nothing is happening despite our best efforts. The critical times, when faithfulness to spiritual practices becomes especially significant and important. What should we do when our thirty minutes of prayer seem useless, we may wonder? “Pray for sixty minutes instead,” a wise teacher once observed. Yes, those dry times.
So I’ve been reflecting on something Nature already knows: that we are not promised the perfect balance of sun and rain, of unending consolation, of a palpable sense of the Holy One’s presence in our lives. That we are invited to lay aside and surrender expectations of the way things always were or the way we think our spiritual lives ought to be moving forward. That our list of gratitude to all the holy ones who come into our lives should grow by the day as they model for us how to be a loving person in every season, as they teach us that success in the spiritual life resists measurement or calculation, as they help us to embrace a new mode of surrender in seasons both lush and dry. And most of all, that a deep trust is called for: a trust that, no matter what is happening in our lives, there is one season untouched by change. That is the season of being beloved of the Holy One in both the arid and the green, now and forever.
Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
What kind of soul season do you find yourself in right now?
Draw it or describe it.
Spend some time in prayers of gratitude for both the gifts and the challenges of your current season.
Featured Image: Bogomil Mihaylov, Unsplash
Thank you for your prayerful support of the guided retreat I offered for the Sisters of St. Francis at Assisi House, Aston, PA.
Now may I ask you to remember in prayer safe travel and a directed retreat at Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester, MA. I will be one of the guest directors for this retreat. Thank you!
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