hope (minus the rainbow)

This evening I was sitting at my dining room table willing Chapter 12 of Riverdale, Season 1, to load on Netflix.

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When one lives in the country and has used up the month’s internet allotment and it’s a crowded-bandwidth Sunday evening AND it’s cloudy and rainy, Riverdale just isn’t going to happen. So my laptop was in perpetual loading mode, and I had Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel in my lap. I was reading one of the last chapters of this brilliant book, the one called “On Becoming an American Writer,” that talks about his post-2016-election hangover. There were a lot of sentences I liked in that chapter:


“The coffee seemed impossible to make, as did breakfast. Going downstairs, getting into the car, driving the twenty minutes south to the college where I teach. Walking into the classroom. I couldn’t imagine any of that […] Can you make coffee? I asked myself. No. Can you buy a coffee? Yes. Go buy a coffee, I told myself” (251-52).


“I arrived in the college’s town to find it as empty as if classes were canceled. As I walked to my office, a young woman left the library and crossed the strangely empty lawn. As she drew closer, I saw tears streaming down her face. She did not look at me. […] It felt as if a president had been assassinated, but the president was alive. Instead, the country we thought we would be living I was dead. As if a president had assassinated a country” (253).


I read those pages several times.


I sighed a little, and my gut clenched more than a little when I remembered tucking my crying, worried son into bed that election night and assuring him that it would be OK, that goodness and kindness could still triumph over bullying and unkindness.


Again I checked Riverdale, Season 1, Chapter 12.

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Still loading.


Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw sunlight.


I immediately shut my laptop, closed my book, pulled my chicken rain boots up over my yoga pants, and dashed out the door.

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This, I thought to myself, would be a great time to see a rainbow. I even started thinking about an essay, an essay about how I was reading about the 2016 election, about how those thoughts sent me down a dark emotional spiral reminding me of the anger and hurt and spiritual betrayal I have felt these past 18 months.


But I would see a rainbow! And it would be a sign somehow. And it would be poetic and beautiful and meaningful and a God-blessed splash of color across an ominous gray sky.


I first headed out to the east side of our property, where we usually see rainbows. We may live in a space where Netflix doesn’t want to load when the bandwidth traffic is high, but we also live in a space where the bandwidth of our sky is so much bigger than in a beige neighborhood powered by the lightning-fast hum of Google Fiber.


(Honest confession: some days I would almost sell my soul to a beige house with Google Fiber.)


There was no rainbow.


But I kept walking. I trekked through the wet grass towards the north edge of our property, then headed west. Still, no rainbow. Rain was dripping on my head. The sun was filtering through the leaves.


There  had to be a rainbow somewhere. I just knew it.


But…there wasn’t.


I caught a glimpse of this sky, though.



And as I trekked south up my driveway Matt found me. He said he wanted to go hunting rainbows with me. I laughingly told him there was no rainbow, that there was no hope.


But I was kidding. I was totally kidding. There was, indeed, no rainbow. But there was rain dripping on my head, There was sunlight filtering through the trees. There were kids inside my house who had just been playing catch with a water bottle outside in the rain.
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{photo cred: Amélie}

There was a husband beside me who laughed when I told him there was no rainbow and therefore no hope because we both know that’s just not true.


We both know that sometimes God gives us a rainbow as a sign of hope. But we also know that sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes rain still drips on our head. Sometimes the filter of sunlight is only glimpsed way up high through the trees.


Sometimes, Netflix doesn’t load.


Sometimes hope is not a rainbow. Sometimes hope looks like a husband who interrupts my impassioned speech just to touch my cheek and say, “You are so beautiful. I sure do love you.”


Sometimes hope looks like three chicks and a protective mama. Sometimes it’s the right-in-front-of-me-precious reminder of God-as-mother-hen: “He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings” (Psalm 91:4).


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Sometimes hope looks like being a faith partner for a young woman longing for a new beginning who is baptized at church today whom I really don’t know very well yet but whom I fiercely love and who sends me a text that says, “Thank you so much for being there for me today. It truly meant the world to me.”


Sometimes hope looks like the two kids I love and adore finding me sitting in the grass out by the newly planted mimosa tree and talking and laughing (and maybe this happens 23 minutes after I have decided I am absolutely failing at this parenting gig).


Sometimes hope looks like sitting at the dining room table listening to my daughter tell me about rape and suicide in 13 Reasons Why and desperately wondering how I can protect her in a culture where it’s OK to pay off a porn star when apparently one needs hot sex after one’s wife has a baby and how that precious daughter sat in a class one day and listened to two boys talking about what they wanted to do to her and why wouldn’t they think they had that power when their president can grab women by their pussies and she has had two classmates within a year shoot themselves in the head and I looked into her beautiful eyes and my heart just squeezed with fierce, fierce protective love for her.


Sometimes hope looks like looking for a rainbow and not seeing one.


Sometimes hope looks like my kids playing catch with a water bottle in the rain and my daughter whipping around in her seat and telling those boys to SHUT UP and a husband who quits listening to my passionate speech because he thinks I am beautiful and trees that turned green despite a wretched winter and Fireball doused in a Diet Coke that gives me the liquid courage for run-on sentences and rambling and…hope.


I refuse to give up on hope.

I believe in a rainbow that exists somewhere that’s beyond an ominous sky and in the sunlight that’s pushing its way through those clouds.


I don’t know what it all means. I told my mom this weekend that I am ready, so ready, for God to create a new heaven and a new earth. Someday God’s going to hand me the deed to a chicken farm with resident coyotes and bobcats and hawks.


And rainbows.


And I am going to lie down in the wet grass, stare up at that rainbow, and smile.


Because light – because hope – always finds a way to filter itself in a prism of beauty and light despite the darkness, and often, because of the darkness.

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