The skies are grey and blustery. The slush splashes up on my pantlegs as I walk. My steps betray the weariness of my heart. The day reflects the dreariness of how the world feels to me today.
Today, a friend lost her father.
Today, an orphaned child weeps into the phone because he is separated from a family he has come to love.
Today, a mother’s heart is heavy with the unwise choices her daughter is making.
Today, a family mourns their young child who lost his battle with cancer.
Like a bolt, grief strikes. It closes the throat and leaves us without breath, without words. Sorrow weighs on the soul like wet wool, soaking in and blocking out warmth.
This world makes no sense. There is evil. Great evil. There is the breaking and the broken. There is disease and disability and disaster. Desolation of the mind, destruction of the body.
I sit at my desk, weighed by the grey and the dark and the lonely. I put in my headphones and start my mp3 on shuffle. And as the strains of the first song starts, I laugh. It is the song that was playing the night a boy kissed me for the first time.
Of course it is.
Life often seems to go that way. Even in the midst of sadness, a flicker of joy bubbles. And in the delighted moments, the broken shadow whispers. My world is colored bittersweet.
I remember the night of that kiss. Sixteen and full of hope. My hands shaking in a boy’s blue Cutlass as he leaned closer and told me that my eyes were beautiful. That moment, pristine in my mind, unmarred by what came before and what came after.
Even at that age, I had already been touched by the brokenness of this world. I never got to live a life unaware of what it was to be undamaged. I was well versed in the unfairness and the sorrow of the world from birth.
But I knew other things, too. I knew of my mother’s determination for her children, of a woman who would give more than she had to fight against the broken things of this world. I knew the sacrifice of my father, a man who had seen so much… so much darkness and horror… and instead of being broken by them, used them to motivate him towards hope and truth and all the good things in life.
And I knew of brothers and sisters who loved me. And of friends who laughed with me instead of at me. And of teachers who changed the course of my life with their words and their acknowledgements of my value.
And I knew the pure bliss of a first kiss.
Of course, the boy and I eventually went our separate ways, as most first loves do. Sorrow followed. The moment didn’t last.
And yet I had the moment. And that matters.
It matters that I paid attention, and that I stored it up in my heart.
It matters that even on a grey and sorrowful day like today, I can choose to hope. I can choose to believe that even in a world of broken, what flows underneath and through and above is more powerful than the grey and the slushy.
Hope is not a balance sheet, where we cross our fingers and yearn to feel more happy than sad. This is a recipe for bitterness and frustration. Nor is it an exercise in denying reality, where we shout with our fingers in our ears, “puppies and rainbows—don’t acknowledge pain!!” This is ridiculous, and does deep injustice to those truly sorrowing around us.
Hope is a choice.
It is a choice to hold on despite the sorrow. It is a choice to believe that there is One who feels our sorrow deeply along with us, but who has given us free will, knowing that this might mean we will be wronged and broken. That we might make unwise choices. That death will mark our days.
And it’s a choice to believe that someday, joy will be more than the kiss of a moment, but will instead carry into eternity. And it’s a choice to believe that we will get beautiful tastes of this in the land of the living.
I cannot go on in this life unaffected, unmarred by the things that have broken me. I cannot shrug at the pain of death. I cannot pretend to not see the horrors of alcoholism or domestic violence or human trafficking. I cannot dance with puppies under rainbows. That is not my reality.
But I am so glad for reminders of the hope to come. Things like the memory of a first kiss or the warmth of a sleeping child’s body wriggling into mine or the long lingering hugs that come when you cuddle up to share the sorrow of a friend.
Life means pain. Brokenness. Sorrow.
But it also means hope and wonder and grace and love all the more sweet because it was borne out of pain.
It is impossible for me to separate the joy from the sorrow. The moments I am most grateful for are mixed up in my heart with my deepest grief. So for today, I desperately cling to one simple truth. The one thing I know to be true. That has to be true.
The story is not over.