The Edge of Hope

Sometimes it feels like I am holding on to hope with my fingernails. 

And that I’m slipping. 

And that the precipice is getting sharper and sharper. 

And I’ve started to bleed.

And hurts only to grasp at the lacerating edges of hope and feel so uncertain and not know if anything I will do matters. I fear holding on too much closely because I can’t tell if hope itself is doing the harm. 

Is it hope, or optimism, or fear, and I actually can’t feel the hope.

Does hope pierce my soul and release it, instead?

Or is hope an arrow shooting through the night sky and I lost my chance to grasp it when it disappeared into the mist around me. 

Or maybe. 

Maybe hope is the thing that is hovering around me as I grasp on the edge of this existence. 

Will it catch me? Could it, even if it wanted to? 

Maybe it isn’t hope that is cutting into my hands, but my desire to hold on to at least one thing that made sense this time last year, that now is ridiculous, pointless, impossible. 

Could it be that I am harming myself by thinking that hope has anything to do with the past? 

I’m tempted to compare my existence to those around me, to say that “I don’t have it that bad because we’re ok with money and we have a home and we’ve got a reliable job in the household and a stocked pantry, and a bunch of folks don’t have that.” And when my mind does that, I feel guilty for being lonely and angry and frustrated and tired and weary. But I am those things. And we can’t see our family. And we can’t go trick-or-treating. And I don’t risk going to shop for things that are outside of the essentials because even the pharmacy team can’t figure out how to wear their masks right. 

And so, I’m left with a sliver of hope, that maybe I will get to escape this season of despair, but really not knowing how it will happen.

— — —

The last special worship service that we had in person was Ash Wednesday, where we imposed ashes on our foreheads and said “dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” And part of me has not left that space. We began our quarantine in the midst of lent, and I do not know if it will be safe for me to return to in person worship until next year’s easter, or pentecost, or will the kids actually lose a full two years of worship. 

We don’t know. We don’t know, and so I don’t know how to grasp hope any tighter, if  actually holding it tightly is causing it to diminish like water or sand in my grasp. 

Perhaps I need to cup my hands like I am drinking from a fresh spring, holding a newborn kitten, or comforting a weeping child. 

Maybe it is that I think that my hands can do the only bit of holding, and I forget that I can embrace hope like a friend or a child or a child or a parent or a lover. 

Maybe my hands are not the right place for this holding. Or not enough, at least. 

What if I gathered hope up like one of my gangly squirmy children and let it sit for a while. Or embraced it like my lover. 

What if I need to be hope’s little spoon. 

I wonder what would happen if I allowed hope to embrace me, hold me instead. 

Can I rest in hope?

I’m unsure what to actually hope for that doesn’t feel directive. I can’t predict or conform the future to my hopes, and maybe that is why hope feels so ephemeral these days. I hope that my children are safe, that the children in my community whose skin is different than my own are also safe from the hatred of the fearful around me. But I want to look with better eyes than that. I want to hope bigger than that. 

But I don’t know if my hope can do any more than that right now. 

Unless. 

Here is the last thing.

I hope I can still find joy. 

Cultivate joy.

Dance in, breathe in, drift in, work in, sleep in, walk in, cook in, bathe in joy.

Not happiness, mind you. Nothing as saccharine or dismissive as that. 

But joy. Embodied joy. 

Thats what I hope I still spread and share and sing and soar in, even when it keeps getting darker. 

I hope for joy. 

Listening for Peace

We have a depressing drought of peace these days. I have to avoid the news before I center in the mornings or my mind is filled with woe and terror rather than peace and hope. For all the places where I’ve heard the world is not at peace, there seem to be another hundred lying under the surface where the news just hasn’t reached me yet.

For all that the world is not at peace, I don’t suffer much for it. I can spend a day off social media and have a wholly better feeling of how my world is doing. My grocery run is not interrupted because the immigration policy in the country is falling apart. My gas receipt might be a bit higher because of a flood that has devastated the fourth largest city in the nation, but that is the only way that my day to day life is affected. My children are not going to be targeted by police because their skin color is assumed to be a threat.

If I ignore what is going on, then my life is hardly affected at all.

But crying peace when there is no peace is not peace at all.

“They have treated the wound of my people carelessly,

saying, ‘Peace, peace,’

when there is no peace.” Jeremiah 6:14 NRSV

Simply because I am not in crisis does not mean there is peace.

And yet I seek peace.

Not peace in the absence of a storm, but peace in the midst of the storm.

Sure, I’d like to not have to worry about how much my health insurance costs and whether or not our daughters will afford to go to college or whether or not a tornado will hit our house but I seek peace in the midst of all of it.

Sometimes peace comes when I take action. It’s one of the reasons that I have marched and stood vigil and been present to hear the voices of others who are not like me nearly a dozen times in the past year and a half.

Peace is an action that we create with our words and with our bodies. We carry peace into places that have no peace and grant peace to others, if we respond with grace and patience.

I carried peace on my wrist for a year after my 14 year old cousin, Harper, committed suicide. I needed the reminder that peace comes from God, not from external circumstances. I still carry the reminder: “and all shall be well” on my wrist, a reminder from Julian of Norwich that even when the world is crumbling around me, God speaks into the chaos.

“They treat the wound of my people

as if it were nothing:

‘All is well, all is well,’ they insist,

when in fact nothing is well.” Jeremiah 6:14 CEB

There is a world of difference between “all is well” and “all shall be well.” Everything around us is in turmoil, lives are ending, and yet that is not the end of the story. God speaks peace into a world that hungers for it, and though we are not there yet, we can see glimpses of hope around us when people show up to help others, when gifts are given without expectation of payment, and when homes are opened for those who have lost everything. Peace and hope are here, but it is hard to hear them whisper with all the other noise around us.

Exactly…

I need you to be ok with me exactly as I am. I’m not going to radically change in the next five minutes, so who I am is who you have to deal with.

This is me: all my faults, past mistakes, recent failures, tears I’ve shed and held back.

This is me: celebrations, dances, joys, cheerful memories, laughs I’ve shared and contained.

This is me.

Do you see me? Do you see my scars? Do you see my healing?

Do you see me limping or skipping? Your perception is based on interpretation anyway.

Do you see how far I’ve grown and how far I have come from that one time we know about? (Or those six times?)

Do you see what I could be? Where I could go? What I could do?

And if you do, are you only going to accept me once I get there—wherever there is—or can we work at accepting each other right now, in this moment?

I’m working at meeting you exactly where you are, right now.

I’m learning to accept you exactly as you are, right now.

I’m living into loving exactly who you are, right now.

I don’t know what the future has in store for us, but if we see each other as we really are, right now, I imagine that our future together will be all the brighter.

We will have hidden less from each other.

I want to hide less from you. But I don’t always know if you would accept me for who I am, who I really am, when the bright lights shine and all our masks are shattered.

I want to be exactly me when I am with you. No pretend, no pretense, no pretension. No make believe, no deception, no grand claims.

Only me. Scars, hopes, and all.

Only you. Scars, hopes, and all.

If we see each other for who we are, exactly as we are right now, we see truth.

I love truth.

 

I wrote this reflection as a response to my thoughts engaged with this poem.

Dispatches During Nap Time: Freedom

I’ve found myself wondering if this is how families felt right before the beginning of our national civil war. Division seems to be inescapable.

I’m waiting for our nation to be the subject of mass sanctions that cut off our supply of cheap clothing (made under unjust systems) and so the government tries to sell us all on thrift shopping, even to the point of stealing the use of Macklemore’s Thrift Shop as propaganda to encourage us to go.

We have gotten to the point that when I wear a pink hat with cat ears, I feel rebellious, and just a little unsafe. Will someone run me and my daughter off the road if I wear it on my walk? How can it be that I feel like I am challenging a community with a pink hat?

For the last three months I’ve woken up wondering what bad news will meet me in the morning, and over the past week, it seems as if our greatest fears have been confirmed.

But see. That’s the crux of it. We are in this current situation because of the mass proliferation of fear. As a nation, we were told we should be afraid, and so using the structure of the current electoral system, this nation elected someone who told us we should be afraid and that he had the answer for our fears.

I’ll give him one thing: he tapped into something and was very persuasive about it.

Because the world does look different. Power is shifting. Freedom is spreading.

But let us not think that freedom is spreading thin. Freedom is not a limited resource. At least, it doesn’t have to be. It is not as if we are spreading freedom thinner and thinner as butter on a piece of bread.

Freedom is the bread itself, rising with the yeast inside it, growing and doubling and tripling in size.

I’ve not talked with enough people in person who do not agree with me. I’ve seen the angry fights on social media, where we are too easily drawn into conclusions without lending dignity to the other.

I want to scream and shout, but shouting is not how to understand someone else.

More people who have done more work with freedom have written better things about liberation than I can. But I wonder if they are hard to hear. I wonder if my words will have a difference when we have been told that the truth and facts are up for debate.

You know, I suppose even I voted based on my fears. I don’t really think I’d considered it before. I knew why the election went the way it did, and I knew that I had a pit in my stomach that only has grown since November 9th, but I never really thought I was voting based on fear.

I woke up that morning with the realization that the nation was not the nation I thought it was. I wonder how many had woken up in the years leading up to November 8th thinking the same thing.

I grieve that we were unable to communicate that freedom does not have to be limited. That freedom is not a resource to be used up, rather it is something that becomes more powerful the more that it expands.

Freedom doesn’t get used up.

We’ve been lied to. Diversity strengthens freedom.

If you are afraid, whether it is because your memories of your childhood are different than what you see today, or because you know that this administration will work to limit your freedom, then know that I am praying for you. I truly am.

And yeah, I don’t want to Jesus Juke this post, but for me, a lot of this is about prayer, and where I need to be praying and marching and standing as we see changes come. I’ve written here about freedom in this nation, but my sole allegiance is to Christ. In the coming months, we are going to see many different people use their faith to say a host of different things that will undoubtedly conflict. We do an incredible job at making our Savior agree exactly with us. That’s called sin. Our goal should be the opposite.

I’m looking for ways that God challenges me and convicts me and creates new spaces in my heart. It can be too easy to pick my favorite bible passage and just use it for the next four years. God’s freedom calls me to something better than that.

God’s freedom invites me to extend welcome and hospitality to people who don’t agree with me, don’t look like me, don’t talk like me, and don’t have the same privilege as me. As a Christian who lives in the United States of America, I’m called to work to extend this radical kind of freedom to everyone, regardless of whether they were born here or believe in the same God as I do.

I have hope that we can be better together. I’m holding on to that hope.

See, I Am Making…

“See, I am making all things new.” Rev 21:5b

“Look! I’m doing a new thing;

now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it?

I’m making a way in the desert,

paths in the wilderness.” Isa 43:19

It is a new year. New things are happening. My daughter is learning to ask for her favorite food, find her nose and eyes and ears, and tell us she wants more of a game or story or hugs.

Other new things are happening. Things that feel like a wilderness and dry and weary land. New forms of discrimination are being ratified into law, new fears are being made manifest, and new people are being placed into office.

But see, God says, look, I am making all things new. Whether you are drowning in despair or buoyed up by hope.

I am making all things new.

The new year is a time when are given an opportunity to consider if there is anything we want to change about our lives as we proceed through the months. Folks make new years resolutions. We consider our past and who we want to be in the future.

The future is unknown and unseen, ready for our interpretation and formation. We create the future with everyone around us. We choose whether we participate in creating community or division. We choose whether we build up or tear down. We choose whether we love or hate.

I want to create more love. But it is hard. I have a history. I have patterns I’ve already developed. I have hurts and scars and broken places that are tender and sore. It is hard to create more love when bruised.

But I have hope.

I have hope that the hard work is worth the time and effort it takes. I have hope that the people around me want to live in a better world as much as I do. I have hope that the grace I learn to offer to others will allow them to live with more grace in their lives.

I have hope. I know the path is being created. New things are coming.