How to See What’s New in Seasons We Think We Know

In my house, Easter does not mean new dresses — it means the replenishment of khakis, as every year finds us with three boys sporting pants that reach only to their calves. And then begins a series of mind dominoes: when I check the calendar to fit in that shopping trip, I remember we need to make a reservation for Easter brunch. When I check our availability, I notice how our spring weekends are already dotted with sports commitments. When I see our busy weekends, I note the need to encourage our boys to mow on weekdays. And that’s when I remember we need to get our mower fixed.

Tell me, do you do this too? Because with each new spring comes not just blossoming beauty but also the comfort of our traditions and a litany of musts — the baskets we fill, the family pictures we plan, and the flowers we plant all compose the familiar, lovely chorus we call spring.

Why We Think We Know This Season

It’s not surprising that the more spring seasons we experience, the more we think we know what’s coming.

Henri Nouwen observes this phenomenon more eloquently than I, saying, “…we allow our past, which becomes longer and longer each year, to say to us: ‘You know it all; you have seen it all, be realistic; the future will just be a repeat of the past.'”

As we enter this season of pretty pastels, this may sound like a somewhat melancholy observation, but let’s consider its gentle caution: When we enter a season, we think we know we can miss seeing what’s new. This caution is especially worth examining in a season that turns dormant gray to life-giving green.

I admit, I’ve been known to charge through my checklist with creative calendaring and come out the other side feeling smug and accomplished — yet unchanged. When I anticipate only the khakis and brunch and yard work, I can unintentionally crowd out, noticing the new thing that God is doing.

What I think I know can keep me from the new things He has.

But those times I’ve paused to seek God before the tasks, to ask what He has for me in this season, or on this day, or in this moment, He is faithful to answer. He shows me something I haven’t known before. Because I’ve pulled my heart away from the plans I’ve made, I can anticipate what He has planned instead.

How to Notice the New

Take heart, friend, because this tendency to think we know what’s ahead isn’t just an “us” thing. When Jesus was teaching, He encountered entire groups of people who thought they knew all the things about the season they were in. The Pharisees, a group of studied and revered religious authorities, witnessed what Jesus said and did and rejected both them and Him.

In a season of all things new, Jesus didn’t line up with anything they expected a messiah to be, so they closed and hardened their hearts.

Except for Nicodemus. An influential Pharisee and teacher himself, Nicodemus was deeply committed to what he knew, yet his heart remained open. He quietly sought Jesus out to ask humble questions about the things that didn’t fit with his knowledge.

He noticed something new.

Let’s pause so I can assure you I am not comparing getting caught up in my hunt for new khakis to the Pharisees. But I am drawn to understanding Nicodemus’s heart because from his openness came blessing.

Noticing is a spiritual discipline. Okay, fine, if you Google spiritual disciplines, it’s not included in “official” lists. But in adopting a practice of noticing, we bring life to what it looks like to pray without ceasing and not to quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:17, 19). If we’re in communion with God and talking with Him throughout our day, that act of noticing what God’s doing in the moments we offer becomes a constant, unspoken prayer. I can’t number the times He has used a moment over a sink full of dishes to open my eyes to a new thing.

Because Nicodemus noticed that God was doing a new thing through Jesus, he discovered that through Jesus, God would do a new thing in him by being born again.

When we invite Him to, God does that very same thing for us.

When we invite Him to, He continually makes us new.

In this turn of season from winter to spring, He offers us pictures of how His mercies are new every day in the unfurling of each new blade and petal and shoot.

Holding that fresh perspective, let’s go back to Henri Nouwen. After he named our tendency to expect the future to repeat the past, he continued by offering the antidote: “We must learn to live each day, each hour, yes, each minute as a new beginning, as a unique opportunity to make everything new. Imagine that we could live each moment as a moment pregnant with new life.”

Noticing Leads to Newness

If we believe what Nicodemus learned, and we embrace what Nouwen proposes, then we approach seasons that feel mundane or predictable or hard, as if each day is born again — just as each of us is.

That mindset holds forth the expectation that God will do a new thing every day. Just as each moment requires a new breath, each moment also invites new eyes. We simply need to notice. Right there, in the middle of our lists, we can experience His renewing rhythms.

When we begin to notice, He takes us deeper.

When we see something new, He reveals even more.

Even in the deserts and wastelands, we walk (Isaiah 43:19), He will grow something new each day. In a season of waiting, He will change our hearts. In a season of pain, He will heal our souls. In a season of disappointment, He will give us His strength and peace. In the hard places, He pushes us through the soil a new creation.

If we allow it, we are constantly being changed. If we expect Him to, He will always do a new thing.

“Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts…Let your work be seen by your servants, and your splendor by their children” (Psalm 90:12,16, CSB).

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