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A funny thing is happening to me, on the way from exile to hope.
That’s the space we’re in right now, isn’t it? The first “normal” school year since the start of the pandemic, without mask battles and extra protocols, is well underway. We’re past the worst of that long sense of heaviness, and dread, and every tiniest thing being extra complicated. Maybe we’re starting to imagine that there really can be hope, on the other side of all this.
You may remember we’re making that shift in this series of weekly posts, which used to be named Abiding in Exile. In August we announced we’re transitioning our name and focus, from Exile to Hope. Hope made real, even, as we talk about it.
But this week, when it’s my turn to write these words you’re reading, I find myself, well, with nothing to say. Which is a strange thing for me. I always have words! (Too many, too often, my husband tells me.) (He’s not wrong.)
I have been casting around for something to talk about. I wanted to send you a fall garden poem that has been meaningful to me, but I figured we couldn’t reprint it without going through a copyright hassle, and if I just referred to it, would you actually click on it? (I hope you will; it’s so good.)
I thought, well, I could share about my new journal that I’m excited to start tomorrow. I journal. A lot, actually. It’s part of my sort-of-daily spiritual practice. I’m on the second-to-last page of that dull, long-waiting-to-be-used plain too-narrow black one that I couldn’t justify throwing away, so I made myself use it over the past few months. I can’t wait to start the one I found last summer at Barnes & Noble, its smooth cover a flurry of green, lush leaves along with bright flowers. But I figured you didn’t need to know about that.
And after sitting for a while with, really, nothing helpful coming to mind, it hit me: There’s a silence between exile and hope. No wonder I feel a bit speechless.
It was easy, in a way, to write about exile. We were all feeling it. Shared agony, and confusion, and frustration are fodder for abundant words. The words flowed, then, about how hard everything was. Words felt necessary, and true, and occasionally even helpful.
Hope is different. Hope realized—once it really happens—is a good story, a success story even. We will eventually recount our movement from agony through confusion and frustration to faithfulness and creativity, with daring, all the way to that long-awaited moment when we exclaim, “Here! Look how the story came out!”
But hope birthed is a long way from hope realized. It will likely be a while. A llllooooonnnnnnnggggggg wwwhhhhiiiiiiillllllleeee before we get to tell that whole story.
And in the meantime, that long stretch of time when you’re pretty sure you’ve left exile (mostly) but hope is not yet realized, it just might be that there are fewer, smaller words.
(Because we can’t know, yet, whether that yet-to-be-told story will happen in a way we’ll ever be able to tell.)
(And if we do tell what we hope happens before it actually happens, it might jinx it. Silence feels safer.)
Still. I’m pretty sure the only reason I’m even noticing this is that I’m finally, suddenly finding myself in that in-between place. Where there’s less exile and an actual, observable blush of hope, in me, and around me. This has been a long time coming. I noticed it this week when someone asked how I was doing and I said, “Well!” and meant it, for the first time in, well, I don’t know how long.
This tiny, subtle lightness I’m feeling doesn’t totally make up for the midterm election attack ads, and inflation, and the news from Ukraine, and my dashed plans for lunch today with a friend who tested positive for COVID this morning, and all the rest of the big and small news that feels heavy, and wearing, and intractable.
But still, something is different. I’m glad I noticed. It has surprised me, actually.
This kind of dawn is waiting to break upon us all, I’m pretty sure. (Isaiah 60.1-2.) Soon, or eventually. When that happens for each of us, I hope we’ll notice.
And if a simple, grateful silence follows, know you’re in good company.