Courage. Kindness. Confidence.
“Sometimes,” said the horse.
“Sometimes What?” asked the boy.
“Sometimes just getting up
and carrying on
is brave and magnificent.”
The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse
As many of you know, I am the oldest of six girls. Every morning of my childhood, my sisters and I would line up for my mom to braid our hair before walking to school. In my mother’s bedroom, there was a beautiful mahogany armoire, inside were many rolls of grosgrain ribbon in all the colors of the rainbow and several pairs of scissors. I can see my mom now measuring out the ribbon, cutting two equal pieces and then tying them perfectly on the ends of my braids. The ritual was like a blessing before sending me off to brave the world.
Inevitably, I would return home from school in shambles; either missing a ribbon, or the ribbons that had made it home were fraying at the ends. The next morning, my mom would braid my hair once again, and tie each with a brand new ribbon. Happily off I would go.
This past pandemic year has left me feeling like a ribbon fraying on the edges. This is a consequence to be expected after such a rollercoaster year of emotions, losses and continued uncertainty about the future. The problem is many of us have responded to the difficult season in the manner of the porcupine, prickly, impatient and difficult to be around; or we have become so thinly worn and disappointed by life that all we see, hear and share is bad news; or we have relied too heavily on alcohol and other crutches to survive; or we are struggling to accept change; wanting things back the way they were and desperate to hold on to some of the new ways of living adopted during the pandemic. After my son’s cancer (only years later I would call it PTSD) it took a lot of time to cease living on high red alert and to find again my joy; to believe good times were ahead.
All of us are soul-searching for a path forward—how to live, to love, to heal, to dream—to find our grounding and joy again. We are at a tender junction longing for a blessing to make our way. We metaphorically need “new ribbons” tied at the ends of our braids.
This past weekend, my daughter Elise (almost 15) asked me for advice on navigating the teenage years. I gave her three words: Courage. Kindness. Confidence. It wasn’t until she hopped out of the car, that I realized I had spoken what I needed to hear myself.
Archbishop Desmund Tutu proclaimed, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to act despite it.” Life is fragile, unpredictable, often unfair and far too short. These facts are not going to change post-pandemic. There will always be another mountain to climb, or valley to see our way through. The choice is to cower or to be brave in the face of adversity. The poet Maria Rainer Rilke’s wrote, “Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage.” The real truth is that God built us to be resurrected. We will get knocked down many times in this life, but we are made to rebound.
Most people think my job as a pastoral counselor is 24/7 tragic. Yes, I am usually the first phone call with sad news. But that’s just the beginning of the story. Next, I get a front row seat to watch those same people rise, rise, rise! I have learned to always bet on the human spirit!
Life is full of seasons. One moment we are up, the next we are down. Either we are passing the baton of hope, or we are humbly receiving it. The beauty of God’s relay plan is that we are mutually dependent on each other to cross the finish line. Together we’ll rebound from this pandemic year. Let us be kind to one another in the process. Be the most generous one in the room with words of encouragement!
Live your life confident that one day you will find yourself in the province of joy again. My grandfather in WWII was stationed at Pearl Harbor for the duration of the war. He had no idea how long the war would last or when or if he would return home. But he never lost confidence that goodness would have the last word. He also never ceased dreaming. That impressionable 18-year old was determined that the future was his. Four years later…he opened a Drive-In restaurant with the money he received from the Navy. The Beacon would become a national icon. Everything is always more than it seems with God. The hard part is being patient with God’s timing. I have Jeremiah’s words memorized: For I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you hope and a future. Let it be your rallying call, too. God always makes a way.
This past weekend I viewed the Picasso exhibit at the Frist Museum. He was an artist in a constant state of metamorphosis. In the introduction of the show, the curator said: The exhibition aims to demonstrate Picasso’s capacity for constant renewal! It struck me that this is our mission: Renewal!
Spread your wings!! If you are blessed to wake up for another day, relish your new ribbons! Be brave. Be kind. Be confident. God has something waiting for you today.
Live in Hope,