By Lindsay Barrett-Adler
Maybe some of you have seen us on the news in the past couple of weeks. We have been the ones with layers of outerwear, wrapped up in scarves, busily shuffling along snowy sidewalks. Occasionally a bored television meteorologist will take a ruler and show you just how much snow has fallen in the past x amount of time. At the same time, loud television advertisements proclaim an oncoming “snowmageddon” or “snowpocalpyse”, only to have a couple of inches arrive.
Winter is anything but predictable.
Growing up in Midwest farming communities, winter was a time between two colossal tasks: planting and harvesting. I remember many conversations during January and February that almost always included the following exchange:
Farmer A: “Got a lot of snow the past week.”
Farmer B: “Yep, should make for good soil. Corn should grow nice and high in that soil.”
Farmer C: “Hope not too much water though, don’t want too much water.”
The reality was, farmers couldn’t really do a whole lot after harvest and before planting. Spring through fall brought the majority of their workload, pre-dawn to post-dusk labor in the fields. But winter? Winter was a season of speculation. Farmers, strong coffee usually in hand, stared out kitchen windows onto white, barren fields and wondered. They speculated, over a card game with friends, about the price of soybeans and amount each would harvest when the leaves turned bright orange and red the next fall. They wondered if, under all of that snow, the soil really was absorbing just enough or far too much water.
Winter is anything but predictable.
As Servant Year reaches the halfway mark in our year, I feel our members living in the same winter of speculation. They are completing seminary and other graduate school applications, continuing interviews for medical school, and updating their resumes. Our members have spent years planting seeds, nurturing relationships, and praying that God would show them when and where to go next. They are excited to experience the harvest and look forward to enjoying the fruits of their labor.
But they also may find themselves staring out the kitchen window wondering, and praying about, that harvest. Did I put enough time into that personal essay on the application? Have I opened myself up to those around me and experienced any transformation the past six months? What if the harvest isn’t as big as I thought it would be; what if none of my speculations prove true? I have a plan B, but do I need a plan C…or D?
These concerns are shared by applicants in their interviews for next year’s class of Servant Year members. More than once I have heard, “I went to college for four years and now I’m not sure what to do. I’ve put in so much time and effort, but I don’t know if there’s a job for me after graduation. Even if there is one, I’m not sure that’s what I really want to do with my life after all.”
Winter is anything but predictable.
Thankfully, we know that spring will indeed come. As we walk down rows of hard, cold dirt, we will begin to see tiny shoots of bright green hope that will flourish and provide sustenance. In a way, the winter of speculation is a kind of blessing to us and the Church. This time between the planting and harvesting allows us to prayerfully take stock. We now have the luxury of slowing down, of thoughtfully reflecting on what happened in the past and what awaits us in the future, of listening for that still small voice in the darkness.
The upcoming season of Lent invites us to do this very intentionally, pondering what it means to bear the cross of Christ in today’s world. And yet there is no reason we cannot keep this in mind even past Lent, into spring and summer. Maybe there is space to take time between planting and harvesting throughout our lives. Perhaps pondering what God’s doing beneath the surface of our lives is a helpful practice at any time.
Winter is anything but predictable; so is a life of faith.
Lindsay serves as Program Director and Associate for Young Adult Ministries.
Living in Philadelphia has greatly changed the way I view relationships in a lot of ways. The people that I have met and the lessons I have learned through my service site, Friday Formations, walking around the city, and attending a True Vine Community Church have shown me the importance in regarding everyone you come across as a child of God. Seeing everybody as a the person they are, and not just a face that you will simply forget in the folds of your memory as you walk past or muster a hello to on public transport.
I have always regarded myself as a friendly person but as my heart continues to grow for this city and my understanding of the word of God does as well I am realizing there is a difference between being friendly and being a friend. Being friendly is pleasant but that does not mean that it can create a lasting impression on those you come across, but being a friend even if its for a short interaction can create beautiful things and make life so full for both involved. Being friendly is the world's basic template for being civil to one another, but being a friend is going above and beyond that. It is showing true concern for the person that you are currently connecting with and regarding them as an individual and a child of God. This to me is an important part of not only being a human but being a christian.
If one truly looks at their day to day interactions can they truly say that they saw in everyone the came across a child of God or did they simply see a passerby who they will never see again? In the beginning of my time here in Philadelphia the passerby was a very common theme. I often did not attempt to make new relationships with people simply based out of the awkwardness of interacting and the feeling that I would never see them again. The people of the city seemed to move too fast to even attempt it and their faces to me seemed less than friendly. It took courage, prayer, and a healthy dose of humility for me to realize I was looking at people in a way that wasn't as God intended me to. I was simply judging them for what they happened to look like on that day, in that second, on that block, on that particular street. I realized soon after that it would take a long process for me to get out of that state of mind.
However, over time the more interactions I had, the more I began to become more open towards people. Learning more about who God wishes us to be to people and how our interactions both in short fraction of time or life long are important in advancing the Kingdom was something that sparked my love for building better relationships. Though it is still incredibly uncomfortable for me to attempt interacting with strangers, especially in a city I am not familiar with, it has been one of the most fulfilling parts of my time here.
I encourage all of us to ask God everyday to see who we can interact with and how to best minister to them with our words and actions of authentic relationship building. I encourage all of us to keep each other accountable of how we measure up people before we understand who they truly are. I encourage us to hold each other to a higher standard of social interaction. Lastly I encourage all of us to look upon every new interaction as a chance to build a new bridge, a new bond, a new piece in the chain of love that this world so desperately needs. I urge all of us to be mindful of being a friend to all we come across not just friendly.
After all we have nothing to lose by giving our time and minds to people and so much more to gain.
Freddie's ministry placement is at St. James School as a Teaching Assistant.