I’m thankful that seasons change. That summer shifts to fall. I’m thankful that nothing can stop the autumn from coming — the vibrant green leaves from falling from their branches, turning to crisp hues of golden wonder. I’m thankful that nothing can stop the breeze from breaking the summer heat. I’m thankful that this season, however long it lasts, will end.
I’m thinking about fall a lot lately. I have a vanilla spiced candle from Trader Joe’s sitting on my shelf, and I’m waiting for its sweet, spicy smell to fill our house. I’ll save it for September 1st, the inaugural day for all things spicy and pumpkin-flavored. I love fall and everything that comes with it (though. there is a lot about it we’re forced to creatively manufacture living on this side of the world). But I think the real reason I keep thinking about fall is because, goodness, we need a new season.
Summer was just beginning when the pandemic went from a maybe-kind-of-a-big-deal to a full-blown worldwide catastrophe. All of a sudden we stopped posting memes about hysteria and started to actually become hysteric. When it was all starting to boil in the country we currently call home, Nepal, my sweet mom was visiting. She’d traveled in the newborn phase of coronavirus when it was a weird, foreign invisible threat. Some people high-fived her, others told her just how crazy she was. But she had hope it would all be okay. Plus, there was a certain fast-growing grandbaby that she would have done almost anything to get her hands on. Including traveling nearly 30 hours to the other side of the world — pandemic or no pandemic.
Her time here, as the tension started to rise around the world, was mostly spent wondering if we should send her back. Countries were closing, and businesses were shutting down. Every day, the headlines brought less and less assurance that things would be okay. In the end, her three weeks became one, and she went home. We stayed in Nepal.
A lot of people, other ex-pats, and even friends made plans in the early corona days to get back to their home countries — to wait it out there with family, surrounded by familiarity, and potentially better healthcare systems. But we stayed. Not because we’re better ex-pats or worse Americans, but because we weren’t done with summer. It had just begun. And sure, it would look different than we planned, but we wanted to ride out the storm. We weren’t tired yet. We were just getting started.
The first lockdown that began as a two-week order and lasted for four months. Week after week, our hope deflated as we waited for news that it was getting better, that the lockdown would lift. But as June and July made their way through the mess that is 2020, we continued into lockdown, into the unknown and the “unprecedented”. Silly me for assuming this virus, these rising numbers, and endless lockdowns would come and go with the summer.
Circumstances don’t always change with the shifting seasons. Sometimes hurt and confusion lasts through it all. Sometimes uncertainty is all there is. Sometimes multiple seasons blend right into one. From where we stand, I can say that it’s getting difficult to hold onto hope.
Hope is a mysterious thing. It’s rooted in the not yet but must be defined by some sort of promise or strong belief. It’s often peppered with uncertainty and deep, deep yearning. It often stands face to face with circumstance and wills itself to last through the storm sure the morning calm will come at last.
But hope in this world leads to endless lockdowns and inescapable letdowns. Hope in humanity leads to disappointment, rage. Hope in authority — fear, forever uncertainty.
When we first got the news of another lockdown, I went numb all over. My face hot with confusion and anger. It finally ended on July 21st. We could hear an audible sigh of relief sweep across the country. Everyone said, Surely… they won’t do that again. But here we are, more rising cases and more lockdown. The streets are quiet, we’re allotted 2 hours of shopping time and a week’s worth of hope at a time that the lockdown will lift. So far, though, it’s been extended once, and I don’t think anyone is holding on to hope that it will lift any time soon.
And so where do I put it? All this hope? All I could think about that sleepless night was that I’d rather be home. Wait… home? Such a confusing word for those of us overseas. The night lockdown 2.0 began, I longed for the home I came from: the place where my mom is, where the air is laced with the smell of blooming orange blossoms. It’s normal, I think, to want what’s familiar when you’re feeling out of control. If I could just get myself on a plan and get to America, I could assume some sense of control over life right now.
But the grass is rarely ever greener and hope, thank goodness, doesn’t depend upon ever-changing circumstances or matters of scenery. But, for those who put their hope in Christ, upon the unchanging goodness of God.
A God who tells us to be still in every moment, especially the hardest. Psalm 37:7, Psalm 46:10.
A God who tells us we are not defined by our emotions, by the gut feelings that want to lead us off cliffs. Romans 8:15
A God whose strength is made perfect in our weaknesses. 2 Corinthians 12:9
A God who is trustworthy, who knows it all. Jeremiah 32:17
Hot, heavy humidity still hangs in the air. Pools of sweat still gather at my brow, the small of my back. The clouds make their monsoon rounds, concealing and revealing a deadly blue sky and snowy, Himalayan peaks. The numbers are still rising, the lockdown is still in effect, and the airport is still closed. It has been the longest summer ever. But yesterday I saw a leaf fall from a very green tree. It was brown and beginning to crisp. The morning air is cooling. The season is changing. Hope is coming.
But God, “his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true. He is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” Psalms 18:30
Oh, what a promise.
Hope is not of this world. I know this. But I’ve never, until now, had any real reason to find that hope in this world was futile. It was something I consciously decided, but never truly experienced. I’ve always had everything I need. And if I didn’t, there were plan Bs and Cs and Ds. Everything’s always worked out in the end.
Through a global pandemic, I’ve seen the effects of a broken world in ways I never have. Personal freedoms that I’ve taken for granted have been taken away. I’ve witnessed poverty and struggle on a new level. The future and purpose have been wildly unclear.
A piece of construction paper hangs tacked to a bulletin board in my room. It’s right in front of my bed, the first thing my eyes see when I wake up in the morning. It says, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble but take heart, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.
Tomorrow’s woes will replace today’s. Coronavirus will come to an end but, headlines will find some other tragedy to put in bold print and blast on our feeds. But for those of us who trust that God is good, that his son Jesus died to redeem us from sin and rose to give us new life, we can put our hope in something that is absolutely certain. Our hope is not in life or death, lockdown or no lockdown, infected or safe, our hope is in a promised eternity with God, in a secure inheritance, in a love that cannot be moved.