Adulthood is a rhythm I’m trying to work out, and there are days it feels like a song hummed on some spring morning and other days it grinds inside my ears. With my first grown-up job, I am reminded how much of life is repetitious—I drink my coffee, go to work, come home, eat dinner, pack a lunch for tomorrow, go to sleep and restart again. Grocery shopping and laundry replay week after week.
Then in the news I hear of all the ways and places the world has split open to bleed. Our black brothers killed, attacks on police, Baghdad bombed, crowds mowed down by a truck in Nice. Bloody summer once again.
What can I do? My daily routine is shabby at best.
Despair has still got a rope around my ankle, it seems, and it’s pulling, pulling me down.
I spent this last week in Florida, playing on the beach. My brother and I went swimming on a day when the waves were high, and it was joyous to ride them up and down, effortlessly floating on the sea’s boundless momentum.
But coming into shore, the waves knocked me down with force and dragged my body across the sand. Every time I stood up, I was slammed back down until I was bleeding from the sand and broken shells.
I thought, Oh, this feels familiar.
This isn’t how I thought I would feel at the back half of 22–like I am fighting to see anything good in the world.
Time is both a blessing and a curse. People say that time heals, or at the very least, it lessens hurt, but in good times, time seems to sweep in only to steal away joy.
The Psalmist notes,
As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more. (Psalm 103.15-16)
So it is with seasons of joy here on earth; they come and are gone. Time stops for no one.
It seems the joys in life are few and the pain and boredom plenty. I’ve had seasons when every day seemed bright and blooming. But they didn’t stay, and they left me feeling cold and empty. Admittedly, I am one who dislikes change and am easily driven toward despair, but lately I’ve felt like life is a meaningless string of days I am growing tired of. What’s the point of reaching a better place, if any future days of joy are just as likely to be ripped away?
In the dull hours you dreamed of ending, but think how you would never
have heard the birds sing above the quiet streets, seen the snow melt as January leans
toward thaw, or watched the red sun light the tips of the bare trees,
burning but not consumed.
Holy fire of sunset takes the world in stride; flames lick away what need not go on,
and you cannot kneel in ash forever; a gentle man once said,
let the dead bury their own dead—perhaps the harshest words he ever spoke.
But we are the ones still breathing, in and out, this ancient sacred breath,
inclining our eyes to the bright skies, branches aglow like embers;
they declare in the voice of YHWH, “You are standing on holy ground.”
Would you turn away from this world reviving?
Would you close your small body into a dark tomb?
Or would you rise again with the morning, feel sinew thread around bone,
blink as the dawn fills your eyes and see that the world, again, is wide?
It felt like each of your dreams died in the winter,
buried deep beneath frozen earth, and you stood alone
in the cold til you forgot what they looked like.
A part of you stopped believing that anything means anything.
We are just puppets here in God’s great game. We play our roles and fall in love or fall apart,
and all the while the world’s a burning explosion. Stare deeply into your glass of wine.
There are no answers.
Yet, even yet, snowflakes waltz from the grey sky—old shroud of a dead day,
weeping new fractals that spin in sheer exuberance, etching a message into the air:
the world dances on an axis of grace, and even in these frigid moments lives beauty.
I am sitting in a coffee shop with an iced mocha and a pile of books, because this is how I know to not be lonely, filling myself with chocolate coffee and words, forgetting the people I love are a thousand and more miles away. Not forgetting maybe so much as accepting, as hoping that we are all where we are meant to be.
Words are the stuff that dreams are made of for me, the beauty of a world that exists only in mind. Language is odd if you think too hard about it. What are words to the natural world? What are hope and beauty to rays and particles of light, gusts of wind, green things growing? We are trying to name the things we see and the things we don’t see but know are there somewhere. Sunlight means more to us than brightness from a burning sphere of hydrogen; sunlight means warmth and unfurling petals, looking ever up.
I think of the things that move me in two categories: nature and humanity, but we also are creation. The synapses that light up the human mind into both poetry and calculus are as breathtaking as the most brazen colors of sunset.
Here am I kneeling on linoleum,
because Immanuel came to set the captives free
and yet I chain myself to cruel gods
who breathe despair into these lungs
made alive by the breath of YHWH,
I have poisoned them day after day.
I was grasping at grace sent from heaven,
joy more abundant than ever before
like manna in the wilderness,
it was bundled in arms with fear
of not having enough.
In church today, I got a little teary-eyed over Pontius Pilate.
Sometimes I think I am the weirdest Christian ever. Most of the time I think I am the worst Christian ever because I don’t feel excited about God very often and I doubt a lot of things and don’t feel like I love Jesus like I should.
Instead I worry and sometimes cry about long-dead people.
Pilate didn’t want to kill Jesus. He wanted to wash his hands of the whole matter, and then he was just trying to not be killed by the Roman Emperor, and I don’t know if I would have done any different in his place. I find that heartbreaking.