but I will hold on hope

I would be false if I failed to mention the loneliness. 15 hours of this past weekend were spent driving, over half spent alone, spent turning over in my mind the same old questions and doubts and fears. Then I came home to a silent dark empty apartment after living in a house of twelve for three days, and felt completely unknown.

I remember high school when I craved solitude, feigned sickness for one golden hour of silence and peace. Somewhere in the past four years, all this has changed…now solitude has multiplied and the quiet thunders in my ears. Even though I am surrounded by this communion of soul-sisters and brothers who love me and who do know me, sometimes that doubt creeps back in: that we are all just faking it, that what binds us together is not love but fear of the cold.

Today I realized I pray best when walking. My heart falls into rhythm with my steps, breathing out pleas and gratitude freely, my mind not quite so easily distracted. Alone, I walked farther today than ever before, asking God for a little clarity and a lot of hope.

There is no question about it; I am like St. Thomas, waiting—always waiting—to see and touch and feel and taste before commitment and surrender, before allowing myself the luxury of belief. And there is always the weight of shame that still I cannot believe, I who have witnessed with my own eyes miracles and transformation, I who have seen and have touched and have felt and have tasted that the Lord is good.

But something changed in me today. A word spoken, a reminder from outside of me that affirmed this season of soul-searching and not knowing who I am or why I am. So freeing to hear these same words that I have been saying and saying and trying to trick myself into believing coming from another mouth, spoken not as self-justification, but as words redeemed, spoken to me simply, with authority and power and grace.

As usual, nothing has actually changed. But at least there is a little more courage and a little more hope.

Wild Geese
Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good. 

You do not have to walk on your knees 

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. 

You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves. 

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. 

Meanwhile the world goes on. 

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain 

are moving across the landscapes, 

over the prairies and the deep trees, 

the mountains and the rivers. 

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, 

are heading home again. 

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, 

the world offers itself to your imagination, 

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--

over and over announcing your place 

in the family of things.



For a little while yesterday it felt like light was running through my veins and flowing from my fingertips, my heart about to scatter into pieces from trying to hold in too much happiness. There was a whistling tea kettle, and blue sky and sunlight peeking through eucalyptus branches, and a mistyness hung over the ocean. And all of it made me want to run—hard and fast and long, hair whipping in the wind—and dive into the ocean, taste salt, and let the waves carry me.

The days which are empty are so full; I lose time like an absent-minded child, moving slowly from wonder to wonder. I think on this past week, and I have done nothing really, except perhaps practice the art of waiting well. It’s the small things that fill my hours, the unexpected, rediscovered things: lunch dates and coffee dates and dinner dates, long walks to the ocean, the smells and faces of roadside lavender and Mexican sage bush and jacaranda trees…and other things, nothings, forgettable but beautiful and surprising.

And I have been taking little mind-journeys into my past, stepping back into that old, hazy time. It feels like myth to me, like I’m looking into someone else’s life through someone else’s eyes. I find myself detached, questioning whether I was really there in these shaded memories that appear and fade again in my head.

Like those days when we laughed daily, loud and long, and never cried except from laughing too hard. That is not who I am anymore. Now I cry more and laugh less but I am happy, my joy is more honest, goes deeper than it did then. A sense of rightness has arrived in my life; I feel free, unpretentious, natural, just…here, in a time when living is good and breathing is easy.

I am wary, however, and humbled by the fact that even a few weeks ago, fear and anxiety were my closest companions, whispering lies of self-doubt into my ear. How grateful I am for these friends of mine who know me so well, see me more truly than I see myself, and point me towards the way of hope. They have helped me live not in the anxious emptiness but in the openness of this time, teaching me to not grasp at anything that seems secure, but to open my heart and my hands to receive what gifts and surprises come my way.

All that to say: there is still within me that restless girl who wants to live like a dreamer, exploring, chasing hope, doing wild, outlandish things…but at the same time something else is rising up in me: gratefulness that this reality I am living now is so much better than my dreams.