Last year I made the rookie mistake of getting groceries during move-in week, as thousands of students descended on Kro-Bougie (the fancy Kroger). So yesterday, one year wiser, I set out to stock up before all the cheese disappears. What I did not expect, however, was the huge display of pumpkin beer! I was so excited, not because I enjoy it (squash-flavored beer seems weird), but because it signals an important change: Fall is coming!
Fall easily takes the top as my favorite season: the leaves changing color, that crisp smell swirling in the air, and the funny shaped gourds that pop up for your table display. It also holds a special place in my heart because of the holy days, religious and familial, that are spread throughout: all four of our birthdays, Reformation Sunday and All Saints, Thanksgiving (and its iconic Macy’s Parade), and the harvesting of nature’s best apples and grapes. Add in all the transitions and new relationships and hopes of a new academic year and you’ve got me wondering why we don’t have Fall all year round!
But what struck me as I stood in awe of the Oktoberfests and Pumkings towering over me in the market was that…it’s not Fall yet. Autumnal Equinox does not arrive until September 22, neither college or secondary classes have begun here in West Virginia, and Halloween is a whopping 90 days away. Even Starbucks won’t sell you a Pumpkin Spice Latte until the end of this month. I may be ready to break out my comfy sweaters and put soup and chili on the meal plan, but Fall isn’t here yet. It’s just not time.
That’s what makes liturgical seasons like Advent or Lent so challenging– we don’t want to wait, we want to celebrate it now! After all, “now” is dragging on, it’s boring, or maybe even painful. And if you’re a dreamer like me, you won’t find as much dopamine in the ending of things as you will the start of something new and fresh and exciting!
But there is something gained from being present in the moment, to pause before “the next best thing” and look around for the holy blessings in this ordinary time: How is God at work right now? What is the Holy Spirit doing here? The seasons of Advent and Lent have taught me that much: how the exciting celebrations (or blessed reliefs) that are approaching will arrive regardless, but the posture of preparing and taking stock of what is in front of us right now can help us to appreciate not only what is to come, but the season of “almost but not yet” that we find ourselves in. We will not delay God’s tomorrow, but that need not mean we forget God’s today.
While I am eager to hear the summer adventures of our returning students and learn the stories of the new ones whom the Holy Spirit is leading our way, I believe that God is blessing their time right now. The final family gatherings before move-in day, the packing, those last trips to the beach to soak up the sun and just be. They are just as valuable to cherish as those blessings (and challenges) that will come as they embrace the vocation of student and friend here at WVU. Fall will come, whether we are ready or not, and so we can hold off on the Pumpkin Spice Everything a little longer and enjoy these final months of summer knowing that there are blessings in the now, just as there are blessings up ahead.