I am reading my friend’s meme. She was a homeschool mom before it became the national norm to be home with the kids on school days. (Could that have only been a few weeks ago?) The meme says “Perception of homeschool moms last week” over a photo of a bunch of amish women standing in a row. The next captions says “Perception of homeschool moms now” over a picture of four bad to the bone cowboys from the movie Tombstone walking down the street together.
And I laugh. A big hearty laugh. A “let’s forget that this has been one of the most absurd weeks of our lives” laugh. It feels good to forget for a moment.
But the laugh feels like laughs I had in the months following my dad’s death. I ask myself now what I asked myself then: it okay to laugh when so many people are hurting? When the world is collectively grieving? When we have no idea what will happen next?
Laughter is a sign of resilience. The resilience of human beings has always amazed me. Now, it astounds me. That resilience is everywhere you look now (which, for the most part, has to be through a computer screen.) People posting sweet videos of times with their families. The zoom dance class that is keeping me sane. Brave faces singing songs of hope into their cameras. The fact that most of the students I teach music to (my favorite job on earth) have agreed to online lessons, at least for now.
We are brave. We are strong. We are resilient.
But underneath all those brave faces and the laughter and the songs, every one of us is also very afraid. Really. Afraid. Including me. Brave and afraid at the very same time.
We can’t make what is happening go away. We can’t read it away or pray it away or laugh it away or meme it away.
Perhaps even more difficult is that we can’t know what will happen next. No matter how much we scroll our Facebook feeds or listen to the epidemiologists or the politics or the news or the financial forecasts, none of us, not one of us, can tell the future.
Psalm 119:105 says “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Notice here that it doesn’t say “Your words are like a flood lamp.” Flood lamps light up everything around you until there is no darkness left. It would be nice for there to be no darkness left. But that is not reality.
We do not have a flood lamp like the ones that light up a baseball field, but we do have a lamp, like the one you hold in your hand when you walking down a dark path trying to find your tent when you are camping.
Here is one thing about lamps: they only light up a little bit of the way before you. Here’s another thing about lamps: the only way that you can keep seeing more of the path is if you keep on walking. If you walk to the edge of the light, you will see the next step clearly.
The Message version of this verse says “By your words I can see where I’m going. They throw a beam of light on my dark path.” Those words God has for us? They can’t tell us the future. But they can light the way for the next step. And the next step. And the next step.
Listen to those words. What beautiful words are God giving you to help you do the next right thing? What is the next step he will help you take?
Maybe that next step is taking a deep breath. Maybe that next step is letting yourself cry. Maybe that next step for a single person is calling a dear friend. Maybe the next step for someone with a family is to bravely make dinner so you can all eat around the table and really connect with each other through this trial.
“By your words, I can see where I’m going.” Do the next right thing, and then the next right thing and then the right next thing.
If we look way out into that deep darkness ahead of us, that future that no one can tell, we will undoubtably become frozen in our tracks. But if we look towards the little bit of path that we can see from the lamp in our hands, we will keep walking, step by step.
And together, we will make it through.