A Mangled Hope

Today marks the official beginning of fall. But doesn't it feel like March was just yesterday?

The past few months have gone by in a haze. Sometimes, I feel like it's hard to recall what "normal" life felt like- not wearing a mask, gathering in large groups, attending college as normal, these activities that were once routine now feel so distant.

Like many of you can probably relate, I've always found it important to process and think through my emotions and what is going on in the world. Since March, it has felt like my brain has been in high gear. So many bad things have happened, or dramatic things, or emotionally-heavy things, that I've been overwhelmed without even recognizing it in myself. Going through a pandemic, grieving the lives of hundreds of thousands taken from this disease, switching to online-school, losing old friends and making new ones, moving back to my college town after months back at home, continuing to deal with personal health issues: I've quite frankly been overloaded. I don't say this to garner sympathy- but rather to "fess up". I'm not perfect.

As I scroll through my social media feeds, it's tempting to feel like I'm alone in these feelings and experiences, as everyone puts their best self out there for the world to see. I'm guilty of this, too. Sharing our best moments, our "highlight reels" do little for those around us. If I can encourage you to do one thing- it's to be your most authentic self, even when it doesn't come wrapped up nicely and tied with a bow.

When the weight of life and the world weighs heavy on my shoulders, when I feel like the hole I'm in is too deep to climb out of alone, this is when I recognize most vividly how the Lord envelops me in kindness, and in loving grace. These burdens we are all carrying are not meant to be lifted alone. Many prominent Christian voices and non-religious gurus on mental health alike often push for a positivity and blind hope that does little more than to isolate, to conceal pain, to push down the hurt and conceal with a smile. They tell us to think positive, to journal, to go to yoga classes, to practice self-affirmation. What many of these experts brush over, is that for pain to heal, it has to be recognized. Pushing it down, cowering away from what's scary and vulnerable, will only make you feel more alone.

I've been following an instagram account for a short while now that features Black voices on the Christian faith, though I think it may be more appropriate to call it poetry. All the words and posts of Black Liturgies are beyond powerful- but this one in particular stuck with me.

Hope can be a beacon, a bright light, a triumphant message or the solace of impending peace and comfort. For me, the hope politicians speak of and worship leaders proclaim is messy, tired, "mangled". It is not the endorphins of joy or the light on the hill, for me in this season, hope is the clenching feeling in my gut to push forward, the deep shaky breaths of uncertainty that balloon in my chest, the small, simple joyful thoughts that come to mind when I struggle to fall asleep, the tears that roll down my cheeks when a song hits a little harder. It's okay if your hope looks different in this season.

I'm not going to preach at you about finding a hobby, journaling, or watching a TED talk that will change your mindset. You, and I, we are allowed to feel the way that we're feeling. As we grieve the deaths of so many, as we mourn our lives as they were, this hope can stir in us the gentle reminder to keep pressing on- a soft, steady rhythm to move forward, step-by-step.

You are loved. And you can have hope- even in this season.

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