Maybe we are forcing ourselves to say this in light of (never ending) pandemics, inflation, and grief, but every single person I’ve talked with in the last 24 hours has told me – with what looks like utter sincerity – that Everything Is Great.
I’ve heard it from multiple church leaders, three public school teachers, two maintenance people in my building, a restaurant server, and a barista. When those words came out of their mouths, if I was looking at them (i.e. not on the phone) their faces were almost glowing with a can’t-fake-that kind of lilt in their voices.
What’s going on?
MaryAnn McKibben Dana reminds us that hope is not a prediction, optimism, charging into the future, toxic positivity, cause and effect, the opposite of despair, solace or future-proofing. We in the Church would be wise to memorize Appendix 1 of Kate Bowler’s Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved because it is our tendency to say things that gloss over pain and trauma. (“Yes, Mr. R. had a heart attack but I had a heart attack once and it was the best experience of my life.” This was spoken by the preacher at Mr. R.’s funeral.)
Aren’t Christians supposed to be upbeat? Christ is risen! Yay.
It’s easy to ignore the pain of the world for the sake of our own sanity/happiness. And it’s also easy to become overwhelmed with the pain of the world to the point of becoming unable to find joy in anything. How can we be at peace when millions of people are homeless? How can we sleep well at night while refugees are trying to raise children in plastic tents in the desert?
It’s a complicated world and finding joy in life doesn’t mean we aren’t also standing with the vulnerable. (Note: if you are not standing with vulnerable people in any way, especially if all your bills are paid, please consider sharing.)
It’s energizing to move forward with a vision and a purpose. I’m find that many church leaders are ready to leap into new ventures they’ve never done before. I’m hearing teachers say that their students – starving for socialization and learning – are like sponges in the classroom. I see that organizations helping congregations build affordable housing are overwhelmed with requests.
God is using what we’ve been through to bring glimpses of good. We are not totally out of the woods, and flying monkeys might be in our future, but some things are pretty great right now. There are indeed things to celebrate.