Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Intolerable Hope

Don't talk to me about hope on Saturday. Just don't do it. 

That's what we're talking about in the wake of Easter, as we wake in the mornings to a resurrected Christ and know that He walks among us again. That somewhere, He's making breakfast. 

The truth is, there are a couple of Saturdays when it's okay to talk about hope. Those are the second Saturday and somewhere around the sixth or seventh. And perhaps again, briefly, around the thirtieth Saturday.

The first Saturday, that time after the hard news hits, isn't the time. Everyone needs an opportunity to process what is going on and to grieve what seems to be lost, even if they know the story. Even if they have heard how things are going to end. 

The disciples had heard Jesus preach about exactly what happened, telling them that He was going to die at the hands of others and talking about this Kingdom thing He couldn't shut up about. But even though the disciples had all the teaching in the world and should have had understanding, look at them on Saturday - grieving. Lost. Planning their return to their day jobs. To try to talk to them about Sunday at a moment like this wouldn't have made much sense to them and it would have diminished the very real experience they were having, the very same experience that God was about to step back into. 

So no, don't talk to me about hope on the first Saturday. I need that time to grieve and to process and to feel my lostness. There's nothing wrong with that. 

The second Saturday is the sweet spot. Here, I have processed, and I am ready for hope. I have accepted, to some degree, what is happening, even if I don't love it, and I'm looking for how it all ends. I'm looking for that light at the end of the tunnel. I am much more prepared to hear about hope on the second Saturday. 

But if Sunday doesn't come that week, then I need more time. I need more space to let things be the way that they are. This is the season where I start to learn how to live again. 

See, on that first Saturday, I'm pushing through. I'm just trying to make it one more day and find some small piece of ground to put my feet on, some quiet place to rest my head. It's survival mode, pure and simple, and that's all I'm doing - trying to survive. Waiting to see how this whole thing plays out. On the second Saturday, I'm holding out. Hope gives me a little bit of much-desired denial, where I can believe for a bit that this is just a passing moment, just a brief season. Things are going to get better. Things are going to be okay. I'm not going to have to make any major adjustments to my life because Sunday is a-comin'. 

If Sunday doesn't come, though...then I start having to figure out how my life needs to be different if I want to keep living it. I have to start making accommodations for this thing that isn't going to be just a passing phase, just a blip on my radar. I have to start learning how to get up in the morning, how to get dressed, how to go to work, how to love my family, how to settle back into a routine. And here, hope isn't helpful. Hope - the idea that Sunday is a-comin' - it prevents me from doing these things. Because it convinces me that I don't have to. 

A lot of persons live in this space, never figuring out how to live again on Saturday when Saturday has drawn on for far too long. And it's because they have either too much hope or too little - too much optimism that they don't really have to change anything because nothing is really changing or too much pessimism that they don't need to change anything because it won't matter any way. 

Remember yesterday when I said that Christians living on Saturday haven't forgotten God? That they haven't forgotten hope? They haven't. But they understand that you can't live in hope perpetually when it's always Saturday; you have to find a way to live again, and hope keeps you from doing that. It keeps you from accepting that what you have today is what you're going to have for awhile. 

And that's just it - the hope that we still have, the hope that we hold on these long keeps us sober. It reminds us that we believe in the goodness of God and the restoration of all things, but keeping a healthy distance from that hope, rather than clinging desperately to it, lets us also accept and embrace what is true about our lives today. We know Sunday's a-comin', but we don't know when. We know today is Saturday, but we don't know for how long. 

A healthy hope, a healthy faith, lets us embrace both. 

But if we have someone, even someone well-meaning, who keeps trying to shove hope down our throat without respecting the season that we're in, it ruins both. It lets us hold neither. We come to a place where we neither believe any more, nor learn to live with it. This is despair. 

That's why hope doesn't circle back around until sixth or seventh Saturday. We need that space to figure out how to live again while we're waiting. 

(We'll keep this going tomorrow. It's getting a bit long.)  

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