The Haze Before The Hope

Spring has come to Georgia, although we gave winter little more than a passing glance. Those of us who wait all year to snuggle up in hooded sweaters were sorely disappointed this year as we more often needed T-shirts and sandals. It has taken some work to come to terms with this. Grief is a process, y’all.

Yesterday I sat in a sunny corner of the library, the floor-to-ceiling windows revealing pink and white azaleas in full bloom and moms with babies enjoying a picnic on the grassy lawn. The early-spring breeze showered Bradford pear blossoms onto their blanket like confetti. March has barely arrived, yet the world is awakening from its deep slumber, green signs of life emerging from dark places unseen to human eyes.

Life has returned. The world is alive again.

It’s a relief to the soul – a breath of fresh air – because no matter how long the period of death lasts, its dreary hopelessness finds a way to penetrate the deep places of our emotions. Even perennial fans of colder months tire of gray skies and the confinement of indoors. When warmth returns, we feel a thawing in ourselves.

Life has returned, and with it hope.

It is difficult, somehow, to maintain a gray, pessimistic outlook when daffodils poke their heads through piles of pine straw. When mama and daddy birds flit from branch to porch to awning, looking for the best real estate for their growing family. When children’s laughter again fills the neighborhood, with trampolines and bicycles and sidewalk chalk entering their season of glory.

Color and new life and the promise of the next generation…they restore hope. They remind us that no matter how bad things are, something good is coming. They point out that darkness and death won’t last forever, in nature or our lives or even our eternal spirits.

But maybe for you, this season of hope and renewal doesn’t feel like it should. You may feel betrayed by nature’s apparent disregard for your pain. The laughter of children and colorful yards are incongruous, a glaring contradiction to what you feel inside. Maybe for you, the sadness that you feel is only exacerbated by the awareness that spring should make you happy. Spring should be cheerful. Spring should feel good, right?

Winter should last three bitterly cold months, though. Clearly, things aren’t always as they should be.

Nature tends to agree and further proves her point. Even tender sprouts and blue skies and family picnics are not without disadvantages. Bugs come back, buzzing and flying and terrorizing eight-year-old girls everywhere. Before hammocks can be hung, lawn mowers must be tuned up. And, here in Georgia, at least, the pine trees bud and bloom in their own way, dusting the world with a powder-fine layer of yellow pollen. The phenomenon is such that we say “the pollen has dropped” when that fine layer first appears on our cars and mailboxes and lawn furniture.

It happens every year, and every year it catches us off guard as though the memory last year’s pollen drop had been repressed. Every year it aggravates and disgusts us with new fervor, and every year small talk begins with talk of pollen and allergies. It covers everything, dulling the colors of the azaleas and newly-sprouted grass. It gets into cracks and grooves we don’t even see until they turn bright yellow. It floats in the air, and we rub our eyes and clean our glasses, sure that the odd haze is just dirt on our lenses. And when we wipe our lenses, a fine yellow residue appears on the cloth….but does nothing to alleviate the blurriness of our vision. The haze is everywhere. Pollen floats in the air like smoke.

It is an obnoxious downside to what is otherwise a beautiful time of renewal. It is pervasive. No one is immune, and there is no escaping it. And strangely, if it lasts long enough, our eyes adjust to the world having a pale yellow cast. The haze becomes normal.

Perhaps things seem a little hazy to you right now. You sigh in frustration over your life or feel a greater-than-normal degree of anxiety over the future. You wonder when things will ever change, and how long you’ll have to continue to fight the same battle. You wonder what you have to do to lift this weight of depression or anxiety or anger or fear.

Maybe for you, the pollen settles over the world as the weight of sadness, grief, and suffering settle over life itself. The irritation of the dropped pollen matches the soul-irritation you suffer through every day. You wonder if anything can bring a change, so you slowly become accustomed to feeling that way. It is uncomfortable, but it becomes normal.

And so to you, friend, I offer this: hope is coming. Just as someone has to want to want to change before anything about their lives turns around, the awareness that hope is coming – even when it’s not here yet – can be the beginning of the turnaround. And sweet friend, hope is coming.

Yesterday, high temperatures and strong wind signaled a change in the weather. As the wind blew visible clouds of pollen off the pine trees and through the air, forecasters warned of the potential for severe storms: high winds, hail, tornadoes…and rain.

Ah, rain. For those of us accustomed to the annual pollen drop, the prediction of rain is always welcome. Rain washes it all away, like a long shower after a day of hard work. It rinses the yellow film from every surface it touches, and streams of bright yellow rainwater stream from gutters and down sidewalks. It cleans and refreshes in a way that nothing else can. It is a cleansing of the world.

As we settled into bed last night, we heard it: the rumble of thunder in the distance and, before long, the steady shower outside our window. The rain had come.

And this morning, the world looks very different from yesterday. The haze gone, those beautiful colors of springtime seem to pop. The flowers that astounded us with their colors yesterday appear brighter and more vibrant without their powdery yellow blanket.

Today looks very different from yesterday. And tomorrow? It will likely look different from today.

Friend, I simply tell you this today: hope is never out of reach. Even when the world – and life – is hazy, hope hasn’t been dimmed. To fully appreciate the brilliance of new beginnings, we must confront the dull gray of death….or, as the case may be, the gritty yellow of pollen. To feel the relief of refreshment and renewal, we have to sit in discomfort and pain awhile. We have to experience suffering to find the beauty that comes from it.

Let me remind you that nothing in this world is permanent…except hope. Even when hope seems far off, the hope of hope remains. And when that doesn’t seem attainable, the hope of hope *of hope* is within reach. Friend, our God is one of new beginnings. Never wanting us to lose sight of that essential truth of who He is, He gives us enduring hope. Hope is the seed that blooms into infinite possibility, and all possibilities rest in the hands of the One who loves turning pain into beauty.

Hope is coming. Hope for it.

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