I was sitting on a deck, letting the sun soak into my face and feeling the Chinook wind blow around my legs, listening to the dripping of icicles and the screaming of gophers. Among so much beauty, I was trying to figure out why bad things happen to good people. I was in the midst of telling God what is wrong with his world when someone walked by and asked me what I was doing.
I’m telling God what is wrong with the world, I said.
Things shouldn’t happen to people to make them jaded and cynical.
He stopped and pointed at me. That is so true, he said.
We shared a moment of silence.
Some people don’t ever get cynical, he said. My mother was one of them.
Then he went on his way, leaving me with that tiny bit of extra hope in a world that was screaming hope and life at me anyway.
Something disappointing happened to S. last weekend. He lost a role that he had earned fair and square because the director changed his mind about casting at the last minute. It’s rough – it’s hard enough to lose a role fairly, but to have it given to you and then taken away is just not fair. It happens here sometimes, although I’ve been told (and I agree) that it’s pretty unprofessional.
I’ve never had this happen before. I’ve discovered that it is unexpectedly difficult to feel the disappointment of someone I love, and to be saddened for them, and to know that there isn’t anything I can say or do that will make it better.
I hate feeling helpless in the face of injustice.
So I spent half an hour outside in the beauty and straightforwardness of God’s creation, talking to him about what isn’t working down here. Sometimes free will is a bitch, particularly when it’s someone else’s free will but you have to deal with the consequences.
At the end of my ponderings and talking, I realized that I am very naïve. So many people have broken themselves down from the pedestals I placed them on – I keep being disappointed when people I respect make choices and treat people in ways that contradict the person I thought they were. I suppose I should learn to stop putting people on pedestals. A part of my soul cries at the reality that in this fallen world I will find no one who will not let me down. Is that naivety, or is it hope, or is it what is left of Eve before she ate the apple?
I can see why it seems intelligent to become hardened and cynical. It protects people from being disappointed by life, by other people, by this big, old, awful sick mess of a world.
I don’t want to be hardened though. I spent too many years as the cynic. It takes so much negative energy to live in that world. As risky as it is to choose the softness of a snail without a shell, I want to hold on to hope. I want to keep believing that there is good out there, that there are people out there who do choose to live according to what is right.
Madeleine L’Engle is one of my favourite authors. Her stories are full of the knowledge that the world is bent and broken, full of hurt and wrong and injustice. Her characters are aware that the world is not how it should be, and they have a passion to see the world whole and healed again – but they all come to a point in their journeys where they have to choose to fight for what they instinctively know is right. It is never an easy choice. They are overwhelmed by the darkness sometimes. They are filled with despair that the world can ever be whole again. And they choose hope, they choose to fight for that little, tiny, almost invisible spark of light, against impossible odds. They fight even though they know they will lose. They fight even though there is no possible way that the world can be saved. They fight because they have to.
Sometimes I feel like my purpose in life is to keep fighting for that miniscule speck of light and hope, like I am here in this life just to keep that tiny light alive, and if all I can do in my life is keep that light from going out, even if I can’t make it any bigger, even if I can’t win the fight, even if after all I do the light goes out – as long as I’ve done all I can to fight for it, that is all that matters.
It hurts. Sometimes it feels like I’m losing, like I’m losing my will to fight because it seems so impossible. I know there is no way that I can win. The dark, the brokenness is too big and too overwhelming and there is nothing I can do to make things better. But the pain of losing that light is so much greater than the despair of never winning that I just can’t give up, even when everything is telling me I should cut my losses and just join the dark winning team already.
I just can’t do that. I just can’t lose that hunger for the light. I hope I never do. It’s the most irrational thing I’ve ever done, but it’s the only thing I can do. It’s the only thing that feels right.
I can’t bear to lose that wild, fierce hunger.
All I can do is hope that I never do.