It’s sunset in Clive, Iowa. My home office faces west, and I watch the brilliant red, orange, and yellow colors fade into darkness. I sing to myself:
In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons a hidden promise; butterflies will soon be free.
In the cold and snow of winter, there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something alone God can see.
“Hymn of Promise,” United Methodist Hymnal, #707
It is the season of winter, and I am deeply grateful that out of the isolation of life confined mostly to home, blessings still abound. Unrevealed until its season, Lent beckons us to remember that we are dust and to dust we shall return.
In the midst of the fear of contracting COVID-19; depression because we can’t go anywhere; worry about elderly parents; anxiety about our children; grief because we cannot cuddle grandchildren on our lap; and sorrow that so many are suffering financially, emotionally, and relationally – there’s a spring that waits to be. God with us even – especially – in the dark places.
God of all seasons, in your pattern of things
there is a time for keeping and a time for losing,
a time for building up and a time for pulling down.
In this holy season of Lent, as we journey with our Lord to the cross,
Help us to discern in our lives
What we must lay down and what we must take up.
What we must end and what we must begin.
(The Book of Common Order of the Church of Scotland)
I recently discovered a diary that I kept from 1974-1975. It was my junior year in college, which I spent at the Berliner Kirchenmusikschule (Berlin Church Music School) in West Berlin, Germany. Growing up, I never adjusted well to new circumstances and always experienced homesickness when away from my family. Yet learning German at the Goethe Institute in West Berlin for two months and then fully immersing myself in studying organ, choir conducting, composition, and voice was exhilarating. In this highly intense and competitive music environment, I asked myself every day, “What am I doing here?” Still, I was able to bloom and grow. Unrevealed until its season.
Fortunately, my college roommate at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio happened to be studying in Basel, Switzerland at the same time as I was in West Berlin, so we decided to spend the Christmas break together. I took a train to Freiburg, Germany, where Jennifer was staying with her host family at their summer home in the Black Forest. We attended a packed Christmas Eve mass, which was totally foreign, fascinating, and deeply moving. A few days later, Jennifer and I boarded a train and headed off to Milan, where we would catch another train to Rome.
The scene remains vivid in my mind these many years later. I wrote in my diary, “It’s 1:15 a.m., and do I have a story to tell! My passport case was stolen an hour ago, as Jennifer and I were walking from car to car, trying to find seats on the standing room only train from Milan to Rome. I realized the inherent danger in the situation and was holding on to my passport case tightly.” Oh, well.
Once I realized it was gone, we quickly got off the train and were directed to the Polizei. I filled out all the necessary forms so that I could get a temporary passport the next day at the American Consulate in Milan. But the loss was so much greater than my passport. In the passport case was my International Student Identity Card, my Social Security card, an eight-day train ticket for Italy and return ticket to West Berlin, a credit card, police papers from Berlin, cash, and traveler’s checks.
There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody.
There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future, what it holds, a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
Jennifer and I spent a sleepless night in the Milan train station, with numerous creepy men checking us out. We were cold, hungry, and bone-weary, yet we had to stay awake. After I was able to secure a temporary passport the next day, we decided to pack it in and return to Basel, Switzerland, where Jennifer was living with her host family. After a few days, I took the train back to Berlin and was ready to stay put for a while. Two months later, I received a letter from the American Consulate in Milan, returning a few of the stolen items that had been recovered, minus the money.
At our next school break, I planned to travel to Vienna to visit a high school friend who was studying there. The night train would take me from the West Berlin train station to an East Berlin train station, where I would transfer to another train that would overnight me to Vienna.
Unfortunately, I got off at the wrong station in East Berlin. After waiting for a little while, I became uncertain about the transfer and approached an East German guard. Yes, this was at the height of the Cold War, and I was terrified. After he told me it was too late to make connections to Vienna, I made my way back to West Berlin and tried again early the next morning. It ended up being a wonderful trip. Unrevealed until its season.
I was ultimately not called to be a professional church musician, although I still love music. From the past will come the future. It was music that led me to discover that my real call was pastoral ministry. And it was music that led me to The United Methodist Church, unrevealed until its season. While studying for a Master’s degree in organ performance at Yale, I not only met my husband, who was a United Methodist, but I also served as the director of music at a United Methodist Church in Connecticut for five years.
In our end is our beginning, in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing, in our life, eternity.
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
During this season of Lent, what endings, some yet unrevealed, will lead to new beginnings for us as individuals, as United Methodists, and as a world? How will COVID-19 continue to teach us that we are one global family and that the choices we make have a ripple effect that affects all of us? How will the anti-racism movement change us? How will our local churches innovate, grow, and flourish because of the challenges we have faced? How can we love and care for one another even when we disagree on important issues? To what do we need to die as individuals and as a denomination in order to walk boldly into a future with hope that is unrevealed until its season? Once again, in our end is our beginning.