A couple of nights ago, my middle son came back out after being put to bed. This draws out the deepest rage from the most irrational corner of my any-spare-adult-moment mindset.
“What’s the problem, Elvis?”
Elvis is our brooder. Like me, it takes him long moments to formulate what it is he desperately needs to say, so much so he woke himself from almost-sleep to come out to the living room to talk to us. In a near-zombie state wrapped in his Pixar Cars comforter, he walked over to pet the dog and sit down next to me on the couch.
His face fell into a long pout as he fought back tears. “It’s just…”
“Anything can happen,” he eked out.
For Elvis, this seemed like the worst kind of revelation–anything bad or painful or wrong or upsetting can happen. Calamity and crisis are Elvis’s favorite narratives. He will tell you how the unsinkable ship sunk and how the Twin Towers fell. He wants to know about storms and tsunamis and wars. And in the midst of post-election drama and glimpses of images on the evening news, something broke the surface: anything can happen.
“Um, yes, anything can happen,” I said. “But also anything can happen!”
Anything can happen. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free, after all, and we are free to love and live and wonder and grow and learn, but also free to suffer and injure and ache and anger and rage. Lately and perhaps for all of human history it feels as if we are constantly looking for opportunities to hurt and kill and destroy, all in an effort to preserve our self, rights, or country, to avenge the wrongs committed against us, to quench our desire for justice. We do it individually and as nations, as subcultures and as political parties.
In that freedom that we each individually and all collectively possess, we have the power to curse and to bless, to abuse and to care for, to hate and to love. Anything can happen, and that anything is awful beautiful.
I tend to tilt toward the optimistic–anything good or true or lovely or beautiful could happen, anything broken can be mended, anything shattered can be redeemed, anything dark can be dragged into the light and made new. It’s the message of this season, right? the arrival of Light on Earth, the dawn of hope and joy and love incarnate if only we have eyes to see it.
How do we train our kids (and ourselves) to see it, when the world we’re walking in is such darkness, and how do we stay anchored to hope? I’m tempted to say it’s only a matter of believing it to be true, faith as the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of what is not seen, as if that is so easy.
Faith is not easy. What we see around us and sense here is despair, death, destruction: bombed buildings, starving refugees, addicts overdosing, human trafficking, mass shootings. Tragedy is the evidence seen and it is real. It is so heavy and I am so weary of witnessing to it, so weary of evening news and news feeds and breaking news and news analysis, weary of the constant and weary of the distance, weary of helplessness, weary of feeling so small in the midst of such humongous pain everywhere always. Anything can happen. I see it smell it hear it feel it.
What is not seen transcends the senses. What is not seen is belief–belief that all I see and smell and hear and feel has in it spirit drawn to spirit, longing for love and wholeness out of all this brokenness, every warring heart weary too, wanting rest, needing peace.
Belief that in spite of the individual and the nation and the world seeking to kill and injure and destroy, love wins. Love wins, love wins, love wins. Love spins hope out of the most desperate situations, sprouts legs and starts doing things, unexpected, joy-filled, heart-centered things, love incarnate in blankets and meal kits and presence. Love incarnates in a million ways, a million dollars, a million sleeping bags, a million greeting cards, a smile, a mile walked, a final hurt forgiven, freedom, burden carried, weight lifted. Hope given. Evidence of what is not seen.
When the individual and the nation and the world bear down, the individual and the nation and the world can also rise up. That is the awful beautiful truth of this freedom, this life.
Anything can happen, son, yes, anything. Deep breath, deep breath like prayer like peace like faith. Believe, believe it’s true. Love wins. Anything can happen. Do not be afraid.