There is a town on the shore of the Hudson River, just outside of the city that never sleeps, about fifteen miles north of New York City. During the day, it glistens with views of waves and water, and at night you can watch the nearby city lights twinkle like fireflies. And the trees — wouldn’t you believe it? — New York has as many trees as skyscrapers.
It is the town I grew up in, the town I went to college in, even the town my grandfather was killed in.
My dream was to get away from this town, this county, this city, and go somewhere far away — somewhere like the college in Oklahoma that covered the pamphlets I kept sprawled across my teenage bedroom floor.
In my last year of high school, I sat in the office of my guidance counselor, all nervous and fidgety. I can still see her face framed by her long curly hair and those gentle, brown eyes. I told her I wanted to go away for college so I could get away, so I could see someplace new and become someone different.
“That sounds great,” she said. “But did you know that there’s a college nearby that sounds like it has just what you’re looking for?”
“No,” I told her. No, I didn’t know, and no, I didn’t want to go.
I told her I was happy with my plan and where I wanted to be, but out of respect for her guidance I told her I’d visit the college the next time they had orientation.
And wouldn’t you believe it, that first moment I stepped onto campus, I suddenly felt every dream I had about Oklahoma fade away, disappearing into thin air like it never belonged there in the first place. It was then that I chose that college; it was there, overlooking the same river I’d seen again and again that I realized I had fallen in love with my town for all new reasons.
Even though it never changed, even though everything about it was the same, it was like seeing it all for the very first time. It turned out, the change was in me, opening my heart to see a beauty that was always there, but that I’d never before seen.
The truth is that welcoming any change — changes in mind, heart, place, life — is like that, too. Change helps us see the beauty that has always been there but that we’d never before seen. We go on our hands and knees in search of ideals, perfection, and novelty, when what we really need to do is to look around and see that we have all that we need.
So, today, on this first day of the month that mentally cues our hearts to welcome new rhythms in work and school, a month that cues our souls to seek out squashes and pumpkins and seasonal shopping, may you center your heart to welcome change, not simply by the shifting seasons, but by the speaking Spirit. More than looking to the falling leaves and cooler weather, more than consistency coming back, more than the prospect of holidays, look to the growing softness of your own heart. Look to those things that are falling away, those things that are good and ready to be done with. Look to the places in your life where God is already at work. Look to your home, to your desk, to your nightstand, to your floors, to your feelings.
And whether the voice of the Spirit comes sweeping in slowly or suddenly, it is surely He that is speaking.
You do not need a new town, a new day, or a new season to usher in the kind of change that stills your soul to see you are already rich in all that you need and all that you need to be. There’s no need to chase or escape something or someplace to be made new. It is God who does this breathtaking work within us.