I keep having this vision in my head.
I’m outside, walking.
The sky is gray and wild. It’s raining, and the wind is battering my face as I ascend upward, my feet digging into the side of a hill. I’m alone, surrounded by walls of gray above me and green before me. As I reach the top, I look to the closed, storming sky that is spilling out for miles above the rising slopes, unfolding in gray upon gray, cloud upon cloud.
And I shout.
At first, it’s just blistering shouts of anger barely puncturing the air as it feels like I am heaving every drop of malice that I have ever stored up inside of me out into this great precipice of nothing. I scream because it feels like there is nothing good in me anymore, so why not unleash the torrent of bitterness that’s locked inside of me.
At first, I feel relief.
Before long, though, the relief fades and the shouts turn to haggard wails as hot tears begin to pour out of me like the rain from the clouds on high.
When I have released every drop of venom that I possibly can, the howls start, and I can’t stop. I crumple to the ground as the rain is still pouring, the wind now lapping angrily at the sides of my face. Now, I feel naked against the indifferent gray sprawl in front of me as the sorrows pour out openly from me the way the rivers dump into the ocean.
The way it feels like it is always going to be.
Then I snap out of it.
This is a confrontation, the one I want to have with God. In my mind, I feel huge as I march myself up that hill. I know what I’m going to say. I have been keeping score, and I know the ways that I have been wronged, and I assuredly climb to the top to receive my just recompense.
I will make someone answer for each offense that I have kept note of.
But when I finally stand at the top, and I let my full-throated anger and indignation loose, I realize that my screams are barely even audible over the wind and rain. I realize that my aching is but a dot against the horizon. A drop of rain into the ocean.
I finally feel like I am nothing.
We went to the beach a few weeks ago, and my three children each had different perceptions of the ocean. One felt free when he was rushing headlong into the waves. Another inched further and further out from shore the more comfortable and confident she got. And then there was the littlest, who did not trust me at first.
As she stood looking out and registering the size of the ocean and her place among everything, she realized truly how small she is. She shrank back as the waves foamed at her ankles. But I was there, behind her, assuring her that I would keep her safe.
She swallowed salt water a few times, and was sent spilling over backwards a few more. But she learned to navigate the inward and then outward flow of the water, and found my hands to hold on to when she knew that she needed to.
She still fell. She still cried. But in she went.
Now, God has His back pressed to me as I sit in the church pew indifferent and miles away and angry. And He says that he is looking out after me. No, He says that He moves before me, in ways that split seas open to guard my steps.
I will never be carried away, even though right now I want to be. I want to escape to where I don’t feel watched, so that I can unfurl these clenched fists in secret, and let hostility spill out of me.
For all of my inward thrashing, there is still nothing I can do.
In other moments, I have a different vision of me.
I’m climbing the same face of the same hill. My steps are still heavy, my grief still real. The face of the sky still upon me, and, yes, still angry. The sadness and enmity are still turning over and over inside of me.
When I reach the top this time, carrying with me all of the losses and wrongs that I have tallied, at that moment, as I see the gray spilling out infinitely in front of me, those numbers are suddenly lost to the great expanse of everything, to the miles upon miles that we tread if we are fortunate enough.
Instead of hurling venom, this time I just say thank you into the wind. And while that quiet thank you is just a whisper, my shaky eucharisteo is carried beyond the wall of gray.
And suddenly, the pain that’s wrapped itself around my hurting heart is paled in comparison to hope.
The anger that poured out of me before fell sharply to the ground like stones, but my thanks has wings, it’s the thing that carries me for miles beyond the storm. Disentangling wildly over hills of calamity, uncertainty and chaos.
Hope is the thing that carries you.
Hope is the thing that carried our cross up a different hill, transcending veils between creator and man, past and future, life and death.
A cross borne into the back of the One, stinging him with each step, each strike, each nail. And with each step tread, marking the Earth in His suffering, He says that as we so suffer, He has suffered along with us before us. And surely He suffered the cost of hope more greatly than we.
Hope is sometimes the thing that hurts.
But hope is also the thing that saves.