Let each of you lead the life to which God called you.
1 Corinthians 7:17
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing.
This weekend marks the first day of spring. I’m watching a tulip bulb growing each day and I think I’ll catch a glimpse of color soon, and the poppy seeds I scattered on a hot morning have bloomed to brighten rainy, pandemic days.
To welcome the first day of spring, many people will celebrate Nowruz this weekend. Nowruz is observed in Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, and many other places, and it’s celebrated by many of our neighbors in California. Nowruz translates to “new day” – something to celebrate.
I first learned about Nowruz four years ago when I was invited to celebrate it with new friends. They were all people from Afghanistan who had come to the United States as refugees. I had met them not long before, when I felt angry and full of despair reading the news and reached out to a new organization in my community dedicated to supporting refugees. “Can you drive?” the co-director asked me. I could. “Are you free tomorrow?” I was. So I drove to a neighboring city to pick up a woman I had never met and drive her and her three children to ESL class. Doubts ran through my mind. How was I going to find the right apartment? How was I going to communicate with people who didn’t speak English when it was my only language? How was I going to fit three car seats in the back of my little car? But like I never had before, I felt God’s presence, there with me in my car on the freeway. “Keep going,” he said. “You’re doing what I want you to do right now.”
I was greeted that day and many times more with three kisses, the custom in Afghanistan. I wanted to offer welcome and I was welcomed. I thank God for that day and all of the days it brought: joining in Iftar dinners during Ramadan; introducing my friend, a woman seeking asylum, to our shared congressman, who told her it was an honor to have her in this country; taking another friend, after we studied for her citizenship exam for a year, to the polls to vote for the first time last March; and that day in the park, where I learned about Nowruz. My mom and I held new babies. My brother chatted with other men. I looked around the park and the gathering and thought God was saying, “Aren’t you glad I told you to keep going?” I was.
I think God was reminding me that day that I could be outraged and sad but that I was also called to use the power and privilege I carried to drive my car, to connect people with resources, contact immigration attorneys, and to advocate for individuals as well as for more just and equitable systems. He was also inviting me to be present in new ways, to learn and grow, to be in community.
We welcome new days and seasons and celebrate moments together – all of us, all of you, in community – and we help steel each other for difficult, devastating times. We still have to navigate a refugee crisis, a complex immigration system, separation from family, loss, trauma, and now a global pandemic. But in the midst of it, and even on our phones and on Zoom, we can be present for one another. Like spring flowers, these moments and connections are gifts and reminders: God is with us, keep going.
God of each new day, thank you for friendships, celebrations, and flowers that bloom and remind us of you. Thank you for being present with us and within us. Help us see and use our power, privilege, and presence. Help us as we accompany one another through this life. Help us to receive your presence and trust in you always. Amen.
- Nicolette Rohr
Thriving Leadership Formation Lay Leadership Cohort Leader