Sand in the Gears

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Awaiting hope

July 27th, 2010 Posted in Faith and Life

Somewhere between a speed too slow to get killed and too fast to get away, a grasshopper found himself clinging to my windshield wiper. He wrapped his thin wire legs around black metal and held on with that baleful, narrow-headed look grasshoppers have. I kept waiting for him to let go, to tumble and topple into my truck’s wake until the turbulence subsided, until he knew ground from sky again and found himself a hundred yards or a half mile from home, feeling reborn or let down or just plain grasshopper lucky.

But he held on, and as I went faster he worked his striated legs and turned until he faced the wind, his antennae bent backward in tight arcs, his tapered body quivering. Then he turned again, and crawled behind the wiper, making it his shelter. He hid behind that long piece of metal and rubber, and I hid behind my windshield, and together we flew down the highway.

I watched that grasshopper hunkered down against the violent wind and it occurred to me that I had intended to write about hope and love and I really just can’t bring myself to say anything about them that doesn’t sound false, that doesn’t seem more ridiculous with each pretty word. First there was love and then there was sacrifice and then there was the church to explain these things and even give us a bible to help with the explaining, which is where we read of faith, hope, and love. We read that the greatest of these is love just as the beginning of these is love, and I realize that I don’t really know much at all about what love means or how to live it or how even not to kill it.

And if you can’t keep from destroying the love that finds its way to you, then you don’t have much hope at all, do you? Not here or in any life to follow. But I’m stubborn and so I wrote and wrote and wrote about hope, stacked word upon word, because this is what you are supposed to do when you write about the church you have found and the faith that has found you, you are supposed to write next about hope and then about love and at the end of it you are supposed to say something that means Something, if only to whisper it back to yourself, because while most people first make sense and then they say it with words, sometimes the best you can do is say words until you come to your senses.

You can’t admit hopelessness. This is why you lie, when someone asks how you are doing, because this is your sin, to have no hope, and if you confess it they will try to fix you, they will try to get you to manufacture it before their eyes, because no one knows how to grieve with anyone any more, raised as we are in a fix-things-up culture. This is why you lie and say that things are okay, or hard but passable, or peachy damned keen. You are not supposed to look at the arc of your life, and come to the conviction that it will only get worse from here, that at best you are fighting a holding action, that you are hunkered down like that grasshopper for only as long as your quaking arms will hold you, that the wind will not stop, that the spirit of the air claws and grabs until it takes what it wants.

Some days I haven’t a scrap of hope, but I have the hope of hope, or perhaps something like faith that hope will come, if only because it has to. Maybe it’s when your tired grip fails that hope rushes in, or salvation, or just a cool spot of water on your straining face. Maybe our story here really is like a fairy tale, and this is why we write so many stories about last-minute rescues, because something beneath our skin tells us this is our story, that it has to be our story, that everything can be redeemed, which means anything can be redeemed, which means the likes of you or me can be redeemed.

And maybe this is all hope ever can be, a faint whisper of itself. What need we of hope, until all hope is lost? You look back at the long, crooked, down-tumbling path of your life, and you peer forward into darkness, and everything tells you to despair. This is when hope has to rush in, if hope means anything at all. So I haven’t hope, but I have hope that hope will come rushing in, or soughing slow like a breeze in summer, or welling up like warmth in your belly when you are in love. I hope to one day have hope, and if that isn’t the best kind of hope, maybe it’s a kind of hope all the same.