Hope

The last two weeks have been…heavy.

I’ve been struggling to find the right word or phrase that is large enough to hold the breadth of news events and personal experiences that have filled the last 14 days and that word fits best.  There is a physical weight to the pain and grief and injustice and suffering and shake-your-fist-at-heaven feeling that has marked the world lately.

Last week I was reading an article on my commute to work about how in the wake of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, many Rabbis are having conversations with the children in their congregations about hate, a new reality for many youth who have come of age in 21st century America, and my heart broke in two.  I was in tears walking off Muni into work – and I walked into another heartbreaking news story that hit too close to home.

The news about Google executives being accused of sexual misconduct has felt simultaneously not at all surprising and like a deep betrayal.  People in power abusing it is in many ways the oldest story in the book, but it feels like a fresh wound when it’s happening in the place you’ve lived so much of your life, the birthplace of dear friendships and personal growth and magical memories.  It cuts fresh when you gather together in protest in a plaza with hundreds of your co-workers with a sense of the surrealness of the moment and wonder “how did we get here?” It cuts fresh when you hear story after story of pain and wrongdoing and the gross miscarriage of justice and see the woman next to you holding a sign that says “I reported, he got promoted.”  That feels like a punch in the gut. Seeing the anger and hearing the pain feels…heavy.

On Sunday my church hosted a guest speaker, Candice Czubernat, who runs an organization called the Christian Closet.  Listening to her stories of how the church has hurt her and her wife and their two darling children, the weight of that pain, felt heavy and brought tears.

And yet.

And yet the last two weeks haven not been nothing but a 24-7 marathon of pain.

There have been moments of profound beauty and life and joy in the darkness.

As Candice Czubernant spoke at my church she shared stories of pain and hurt, yes, but she also shared stories of hope. She talked about churches that have hurt her but also about churches that have embraced her. She spoke of friends and family members that have loved her and her family well.  She spoke with grace and love about ways we can be better allies to the LGBTQ+ community, concrete examples of ways to lay down our own privilege and stand with our brothers and sisters against the lies of systems of oppression that tell them they are anything other than the beloved children of God.  She has every right to be angry at the injustice of the world, but she spoke with such grace and such hope, and her words were a gift.

Last week I stopped by to see one of my dear friends and [as I always do] seized the opportunity to snuggle her 3 month old close.  He locked eyes with me and smiled [if I could figure out a way to bottle the feeling of a baby smiling at you, I could retire now.] I marveled at his chubby cheeks and traced a finger across his perfect button nose and I felt some of the heaviness lift, in the face of such precious new life.

I spent last Saturday in a room with a group of kind, thoughtful, engaged people from wildly different backgrounds and we talked about faith and the bible and truth and beauty and reimagining how we view God and the world and ourselves.  I sat outside in the warm sunshine [in November!!] and in a conference room and in a beer garden and I had conversation after encouraging conversation about reckoning with our own privilege and loving our neighbors well and my heart filled up with hope and community.

On Tuesday I sat with my church community group and listened to the director of City Hope talk about his heart and vision for loving and serving our neighbors in the Tenderloin with authenticity and compassion, humor and strength. As I listened to his words I felt the heaviness lift and I was reminded of what beauty is already happening in the midst of brokenness, hidden in plain sight.

Last night I showed up at my usual Thursday volunteering gig and a gaggle of 8 year old girls ran toward me, asking indignantly why I hadn’t been at practice on Tuesday, and throwing their arms around my waist. I told them I had missed them and found that I deeply meant it.  We couldn’t run outside because of the poor air quality from the fires so we played tag on a deserted classroom floor and I had them bear crawl across the hallway, to remind them that they could do hard things. They laughed and collapsed and were their usual lovably wild cacophony of energy and I felt a little more of the heaviness lift, even more space open up in my chest.

The question I have been asking the past two weeks – aloud in the communities I’m part of and in my own mind and heart – is this: what does it look like to have hope in this season?  I don’t want to drown in the despair of the news cycle, but I also don’t want to brush aside or minimize the reality of the pain and injustice and suffering happening all around me.

I want to sit with the heaviness because the pain is real and worth wrestling with.  I want to sit with the pain and discomfort of the Jewish community, the LGBTQ+ community, the survivors of sexual harassment and assault, the men, women and children living on the streets of the Tenderloin, because their pain is my pain.  We are all the beloved children of God, and I want my heart to beat and to break with theirs.

I want to sit in the darkness with them, to feel the full weight of the pain and the brokenness.

And then I want to stand up.

I want to stand up and look up and ask the God of all hope to fill me with love and compassion and the wisdom to know how to move forward.  I want to ask God to open my eyes to where He is at work bringing about hope and change and shining His light in the darkness, and join in that holy and messy and profoundly beautiful work.

I already have some ideas of where to look.

I think He’s at work at my job, in the conversations I’m having with colleagues and friends and leaders about doing the work to repair broken systems, to bring about justice and do the right thing and truly “not be evil” and love each other well.

I think He’s at work at City Hope, in goofy movies and karaoke night and popping popcorn and serving with love and building relationships with people who have wildly different life experiences than I have, and letting that be a source of shared learning, love and laughter.

I think He’s at work in the most mundane aspects of my daily life, giving me opportunities to, as Brennan Manning says “give life and not drain it” to my family and friends and roommates and Lyft driver and the check out guy at Whole Foods.

I think He’s at work in this big, beautiful and broken world in a million small, beautiful ways, pinpricks of light in the darkness, illuminating a hopeful, beautiful way forward.

So I am taking a deep breath today, and opening my palms and asking God to lift some of the heaviness so the light can get in.  I’m asking Him to open my eyes to the places of brokenness and beauty and to open my heart to know what it looks like to love with strength and mercy, kindness and courage, faith and hope.