Holding Out for Hope
It has been a long Lenten season this year. Long, long, long. Not only am I tired of waiting, but so are my little ones, who I swear think it's all about the eggs, although I have been very good at talking about the waiting and Jesus every night. Yet they still wonder — is there an Easter bunny? And why does he bring a small chocolate version of himself? Santa doesn't do that.
And then there are questions in regards to why bunnies lay eggs, and other random questions I'm not sure I'm equipped to answer. Oh well. May be one day in their late thirties they will remember the effort, and perhaps Jesus will come to mind sooner than that. Really hoping on that last one.
I don't know about you, but last year Lent just rushed by before I could even get my mind wrapped around the idea that it was Lent, that we were supposed to be waiting. I thought about Lent for a heartbeat, looked up and it was Easter, and I'm pretty sure our attire reflected that quick transition.
The quickness of it wasn't necessarily bad, just like a long wait isn't necessarily bad, but you hope to have enough time to sit with both, so there's an appreciation for the slow, the sad, to grasp the understanding for the wait. You also long for enough of a window to get ready, to dare, to hope wildly with reckless abandon — to toss the windows open and let the sun stream in. You need to prepare to dare to hope again and not be disappointed, to trust enough again to be able to feel the joy riding underneath you, like a small swift current.
But those years of balanced expectation and anticipated joy don't come often.
Often we are stuck waiting for what feels like forever. We are waiting, we are worried, we are often caught wondering if hope and spring and yellow daffodils and all things light and happy will ever return. We know the drill. This isn't our first Easter or spring and yet some of us still hesitate — can we really depend on hope? Are things really going to get better? Will the grass ever be green again, not this depressing brown-grey stuff that we've seen for what feels like years? Is the coffee always going to be this bitter? Is Mom's health ever going to be better, or is this the final lap?
And we silently wonder if there is ever going to be a world without so much pain and heartbreak, as we scan through our prayer list while shaking our heads in sadness.
We are stuck waiting in these March and April days, the ones full of rain and storms and still dead grass and still Mr. Groundhog, all cozy in the earth, the whole lot of us just sort of gasping and panging, hanging around in what seems to be a long midwinter of everything. Even the trees, the sidewalks, and especially our attitudes and moods all seem covered with a thin layer of slush, just waiting for the bright sun to defrost everything, for the color to come back into our garden beds, our cheeks, our lives.
Those years, like this year, are hard. Real hard.
This year, I am so ready, so ready for Jesus to get here. Ready to celebrate, to throw off the black mourning outfit, the bad attitude and all of the hurt and the daily grind of life that some days feels like sandpaper on my skin.
In these moments I think: Jesus, you cannot get here soon enough. We need you. I need you.
I think this a lot, listening to the evening news, listening to sad songs on the radio on the ride home, anything really, that speaks of a gasping, achingly broken and sorrowful world. Be here now, I pray. I pray, head heavy. Bring yourself, bring the green, bring fresh air, bring change and an outlook so bright we cannot ignore it. Bring it all, I pray.
Because on these types of days, joy and hope feels daring. It feels like the most drastic and vulnerable thing we can do — because, really, can there be treasure in what feels like these leftover fragments, this constant pain of our lives? In what we want to discard, toss away and run from, can we really stand on hope, solid like the ground beneath us? Or is hope what we fear — like a balance beam that we have to steady ourselves to stand on?
And there are days where we wonder how anything could ever turn out for the best, that all this pain and hate and heartache could somehow be worth it, that what feels like the trash of our lives could somehow be made beautiful and useful.
And then we watch the birds as they circle the neighborhood, as they flit here and there, bringing back bits of yarn, wrappers, a random red straw. An old piece of a plastic bag, a shred of a birthday ribbon. What everyone discards they take with them, like tiny flying hoarders, pecking away and weaving it into a nest. We do not understand this really, but smirk when we see a bird with a piece of old newspaper hanging from its beak, as we sort of understand what's happening with all these seemingly useless bits.
And a little while later, we peer into the nest, curious about it, only to realize that a home made out of what could be considered trash serves a very important role.
It holds the most precious of all things — hope.
Come Easter, come.