We were preparing for dinner last evening - the sun was shining, the skies were crystal clear, a light breeze was blowing through the palm trees, and then suddenly “the bottom dropped out.” In a matter of seconds a “haboob” descended upon our desert valley and “in a flash” everything was turned into chaos.
Before moving out to the desert I had never heard the word “haboob,” let alone live through one. A “haboob” is an intense desert sandstorm. The storm looks like a giant wave of sand as it approaches - like something out of a horror flick, it ominously sweeps down and invades, engulfing everything in swirling, blinding sand and howling gusts of wind.
When yesterday’s sandstorm hit, it shrouded the mountains and turned the blue sky black - the “emergency warning system” on the TV and phones was activated urging everyone to stay off the roads and seek shelter, additionally warning that the storm could carry intense lighting and a flash flood.
As we ran out into the yard yesterday to secure furniture and make sure the dogs were safely in the house, we all looked like Lawrence of Arabia as we covered our heads with towels to prevent the swirling sand from blinding our eyes and biting our lungs.
I have to say that it was all pretty scary.
As we finally sat down to dinner, we ate together and watched the storm’s fury – the hummingbirds and roadrunners were safely nestled in the trees, even our dogs were secured at our sides, and I had this sense of feeling very grounded in the midst of all the chaos. I knew that, even though we couldn’t see it, those mountains were still towering in the horizon and the crystal skies prevailed beneath the ominous clouds of sand. Somehow, even in the midst of the prevailing storm, I knew all was well.
It was then that I realized that nature was again teaching me a lesson - this time the lesson being taught was a lesson about “hope.” “Hope” is a sense of being grounded in the swirling chaos of life.
I have always thought that “hope” was a very misunderstood virtue. When people use the word “hope,” they often equate it with “wishful thinking:” “I hope I pass the exam, I hope I get the job, or perhaps even, “I hope I win the lottery.” But, as I see it, “hope” is a far cry from this kind of “wishful thinking.”
“Hope” is a knowledge that, even as the storm swirls around, all is well - not all will be well, but rather, all is well.
Each and every one of us knows something about being hit by life’s stormy chaos – at times the storms arise suddenly, sometimes more gradually. People get sick, there is a car crash, friends die, relationships rupture, people lose their jobs - and when that happens we often tell ourselves “all will be well,” it will all get better one day. Yet, realistically, sometimes that just doesn’t happen. Sometimes the cancer gets worse, sometimes the friend we have been praying for dies.
That’s why I say that “hope” isn’t a belief that all “will” be well, but rather a knowledge that no matter what, all “is” well. In the midst of all the chaos of life, Love abides, God abides. Even in death we “hope” because Love abides, “God abides.” The crystal sky is always there and the towering mountains soar in the sky even when they can’t be seen.
Emily Dickinson once wrote:
Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.
And sings the tune without the words.
And never stops at all.
I personally think that “wishful thinking” is rather foolhardy. I also believe that we deceive ourselves when we think that all the problems of life will all get fixed. But I also believe it is wise and even noble to be “hopeful” – to be secure in a sure and even certain sense that all is well. We are never alone, we are never abandoned, we have one another, Love abides, God abides.
Hope perches in our souls and sings a tune that never stops at all.