Me, to Abby: “How would you start a blog about hope?”
Abby [crocheting]: “I guess I would get some hope first . . . I’m funny, huh?”
We are a family who knows what we have and what we do not–and we are not afraid to name those things. Right now, we most lack hope, patience, and energy.
It is not as if we are particularly concerned about lacking these things, either. We have been without them before, and we can do without them now. I was crying in the car one day and Abby turned to me and said simply, “I am sorry you are distressed, and I wish I could help you.” We are honest in our recognition of our powerlessness.
This morning at church, the greeters gave everyone two index cards. During the sermon, our pastor asked us to write one thing we wanted to see happen in 2020 on one card; on the other, he said to write something about 2019 that we wanted to leave behind, to forget about forever.
And the thing I wanted to forget about, to put entirely behind me, to give up on, the thing that I wrote on the card was HOPE.
I showed the card to my seatmates with a wry grin, and they didn’t even bother to admonish me.
I hadn’t been to church in a few weeks. We didn’t go to Christmas Eve service anywhere; we didn’t load in the car to look at holiday lights; Greg didn’t read us the nativity story–he just went to bed; at 11:00 PM, Abby came home with her boyfriend and demanded, “Am I going to open one present and an ornament, or have we given up entirely this year?” so she and I at least did that.
But I decided that church is going to be optionless in 2020–it is going to become a “thing I do,” like grading papers or going to the YMCA. There’s not going to be any choice. On Sunday mornings and Sunday nights, I will be there. (On most Wednesday nights, I will be at the YMCA doing yoga.) I will grit my teeth and go alone and be among people and listen to the music and hear the Word, not because I want to, but because, to survive, I know that I must.
Today, I took a cookbook with me. I suppose it’s rationally indefensible, but I guess I grabbed it because my brain cannot be allowed to idle–though, really, it will not idle, since October 23, it is always thinking at least three things simultaneously, one at a low hum: “myfatherisdeadhekilledhimselfhediedalone.” I cannot allow my brain to shout that truth, because then it may also shout the others:
It is not denial that keeps me tamping these truths. These are too much right now–if they are stacked near my father’s death, if Stephanie Grace’s death touches his, well, that is an edge of sorrow that I choose to avoid.
I will not think about my father’s solitude in his office. I will not think about my sweet granddaughter’s footprint. I will look at pictures of chicken instead. I will carefully consider the ingredients of “whoop whoop soup.”
After I wrote “hope” on the index card and my friends and I chuckled, I crossed it out, and I started thinking–why was that my instinct? Why not write “my father’s death” or “our financial and marital struggles” or “the doctor’s mistakes”? Why not start fresh in one of those areas?
There are, I think, two reasons.
The first is this: I believe that our losses count. That they are valuable. That our testimonies of loss and restoration build others’ faith. And, so, if I forget the pain of my father’s death, if I forget what it felt like to see my granddaughter lying lifelessly on that hospital chuck, I cannot look into your brokenhearted eyes and say, “God will get you through your sorrow.” Therefore, I cannot put these things behind me–but neither can they be always in front of me.
The other is this: it may really be time to give up on my hope. My hope may not be His hope. My hopes–for a happy home, financial stability, a healthy husband, a pain-free body–may hinder His plans.
I sat in church and thought: what if I am only whole enough to persevere? What if that is all hope looks like in my life?
What if I don’t get better? What if I only get stronger?
Is there value in my testimony if it is only one of the valleys? If I never again see a mountaintop?
I do not understand this seven-year season–but I trust Him. The Bible tells me that His thoughts are not my thoughts and His ways are not my ways; that His thoughts are much higher than mine; that now I see through a glass darkly; that now I see in part, but I shall someday see in full. (Isaiah 55:8; 1 Cor 13:12)
God is with me–and my family. He is so very close to us in our distress. We know this. We know we are not abandoned. We know we are not abandoned.
And we believe we will someday see. In full.