In these days of social distancing and spending lots of time in my house, I have looked to people in our congregation to teach me how to do this. For some of our community, having to stay home is nothing new. For months, sometimes years, they have “sheltered in place” because of compromised immune systems, or challenges with mobility, or chronic illness. They have wisdom to share with us about how to faithfully navigate these days at home.
There’s a pattern I have heard from many of them – both in phone conversation and through emails. It begins with an honesty about how hard things can be. They truthfully name the reality of their experience and feelings. I am lonely. I’m disappointed. This is painful. I’m angry. I’m worried about my neighbors, my family, this world. It’s not a pity party, but an honest reality of what’s going on in their heart, their bodies, their world.
And then, always, there is a shift. A breath. And then they say: “and yet, I am grateful. I get Meals on Wheels every day. My kids check in on me. There’s this tree in bloom outside my window. I’m reading this amazing book. This hymn was in my head all day.” There is honest struggle and then. . . “and yet, here are things for which I am grateful. Here is evidence of God’s faithfulness.”
Perhaps without even knowing it, these friends of ours are patterning these prayers and emails after the psalms, particularly the psalms of lament. There are these psalms full of the spectrum of human feeling – agony, anger, sorrow, despair, grief. “My bones are shaking with terror” (Psalm 6:3) and “my tears have been my food day and night (Psalm 42:3) and “why, Lord, do you stand so far off? (Psalm 10:1). These psalms give us permission to honestly feel, to tell the truth of our experience.
And then – these psalms of lament make a turn, their own kind of “and yet.” They reorient us back to God and God’s faithfulness, “But, God, You do see! Indeed You note trouble and grief, that You may take it into Your hands. (Psalm 10:14) and “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you so disquieted within me. Hope in God, for I shall again praise the Lord, my help and my God” (Psalm 42:11).
These faithful ones (both the psalmist and our homebound friends) teach us about how to live with honest hope in these days. They show us how to tell the truth, acknowledge the reality of our struggle, but also to keep on turning back to the hope we know in God. We can name how hard things are, but then also say, “AND YET, here is the joy, the blessing, the goodness.” It’s a struggle and yet, still, I can be grateful. God is still faithful.
This is the Easter season. The reality of global pandemic and so much uncertainty are mixed right into our Alleluias and joy. We stand on the promise that while death and suffering and tears are still here, they are not the end. Easter is God’s great “and yet” to the world. Yes, things are hard AND YET, Jesus rose from the grave, conquering death and all its derivatives. Suffering is not the end of the story. Nothing can keep God’s love from bringing us to life. This Easter season let’s honestly lament and name the reality of our experiences. But remember those laments are answered, always, by an empty tomb.
And yet, Christ is Risen. He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!