[An important preface to this post: I wrote this on February 15th while on airplanes. Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I tend to get pretty philosophical on flights. Maybe it’s something about hurtling through the air, being a little sleep-deprived, being very aware that my fate is NOT in my own hands, whatever. If it doesn’t make sense, I apologize. It’s probably the just the flight talking. Alternate titles I thought of: Singleness 2: Even More Single? / Does Hope Hurt? / A Bad Day to Fly / Why Am I Still Here?….. Yeah. It was a long day. Here goes!]
On Valentine’s Day, I spent a good chunk of the day in a tiny rural fog-bound airport. I was waiting for a plane. (As one does.) The irony of sitting around waiting alone on Valentine’s Day didn’t escape me.
Trying to keep the boring part of the story short, I was dropped off for a mid-morning flight. The weather didn’t look promising – snow flurries and freezing fog between the flurries. The airport is so small that it only flies to one destination and the plane wasn’t at the airport yet. It hadn’t even left the other airport yet. That plane kept delaying and delaying and delaying. Then finally, the news was announced that the plane was wheels up and on its way to us. (Rejoicing! Hope! Hurrah!) We had been in the airport for around 4 or 5 hours by that point.
As we scurried through The TSA Security Pageant (the most common form of interactive live theater in the United States), hope was running through our blood. And as we sat in that post-security lockdown area, we heard the plane. And then there was silence. And then we heard the plane again. That plane circled the airport three times, couldn’t find an opening in the fog, then went back to its original airport.
Went back through the line, got rebooked for an afternoon flight (which was about an hour away at that point), went back through The TSA Security Show and got patted down that time. Why be MORE thorough the second time through security? It’s a mystery. Sat back down in post-security lockdown, and heard the plane. And heard the plane. And heard the plane. Then heard the announcement that the plane circled three times and went back to its original airport.
You know the hardest part of waiting? The hope of imminent change. In this case, it was hearing both of the planes. It was going through the motions and getting packed and getting prepped and getting patted down, then sitting there with a suitcase and going nowhere. It felt like a Buster Keaton movie and I’ve never felt more for that sad-face little figure who was funny just because he didn’t know when to give up.
T.S. Eliot has a line in the Four Quartets:
I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope / For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love / For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith / But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. / Wait without thought thought, for you are not ready for thought…
Are you ever afraid of hope, because it seems so tied to disappointment and hurt? I know that I’ve made hope into the enemy, because I’ve tried to fool myself into thinking that if I don’t hope for anything, I can’t be disappointed. Making waiting and wanting into a problem and trying to solve them by ignoring them.
HOPE IS NEVER THE PROBLEM. Hope is hope. It is good. How can we even pretend to be fine without it?
Today, I’m writing this on an airplane. The weather is absolutely gorgeous. The snow hills look like sleeping swans with their heads tucked under their wings. From the air, school buses look like chopped up No. 2 pencils. The world was blue and white and brightness. My prayers have been answered. Not that they weren’t answered yesterday, but yesterday’s answer was Wait. Not gonna lie, I never like that answer.
But the truth is that yesterday was a terrible day for flying. Today is a good flying day. Today is everything that I hoped yesterday would be. It’s obviously the right day to go. I woke up knowing that it would work this time.
I spent a lot of the stuck-in-the-airport time reading, but also browsing social media. A lot of single people kinda lost their minds over Valentine’s Day. Reactions ranged from the ambivalent (Well, the day after Valentine’s Day, all the chocolate goes on sale) to pure reaction (Well, I’m going throw a party for myself and celebrate singleness! Yeah!) to offended, wounded, and in despair. Like waiting for a plane, this despair over a reminder of romantic love has everything to do with unfulfilled hope. Being single on Valentine’s Day can be like hearing that your long-awaited flight has finally been canceled. It’s a symbol of love and you feel excluded and alone. But hope isn’t the problem. You know the most important time to have hope? When it is hard.
It’s the same with all virtues. Fellas, love is easy when she’s looking beautiful in that black dress and her smile is stopping your heart. A stranger could fall in love with her when she looks that beautiful. Love is hard when the baby’s crying in the middle of the night and you’re deciding whether or not to acknowledge it or not.
Hope is a gift from the Holy Spirit. We can’t cultivate it on our own. Without God’s grace, love, hope, and peace are just words and words we can’t possibly understand, let alone carry out their actions. We want hope without any need for hope. We want love without any trials to refine our love. We want peace to mean there is never any conflict for us to resolve or any anxiety to make us doubt. We want to be great without trying. Without difficult people or difficult circumstances messing our hair up.
Show love while waiting for love. Have hope when it’s hard to wait. Have peace when you start to doubt whether you even want hope. Peace. Be still. I’m frustrated and illogical. Peace This is the most important time to have hope. Hope comforts, disappointment hurts. Don’t confuse them.
I was shown so much love on Valentine’s Day. My family loves me so well. I love them and I like them. I’m spoiled and I know it.
My dad expresses his love in a lot of ways, but they fall under the general category of Caring. He takes really good care of me. He helps me with paperwork and booking flights and talks through car problems and taxes. All the stuff that intimidates me. We were on the phone so many times during the no-fly day, thinking through everything.
My oldest brother drove me to the airport, because he wanted me to be safe on the icy roads. My second-oldest brother gave me a ride back to my house once everything got canceled and after finding out there wasn’t food in the airport, he made a detour to buy me chicken nuggets and sweet’n’sour sauce. My sister fed me dinner and we made snow ice cream. I’m so thoroughly blessed. Saturated with blessings.
Waiting and hope are two different things. Sometimes waiting feels like the airport. Sitting. Nothing to do except wait. A defined timeline. Between things. Between what you have and what you want. But I don’t think it is a good metaphor for hope.
Hope is like anticipating a really good dinner. You have your work to do, but you have friends working alongside you, and you remember throughout the day that dinner is going to be amazing. It isn’t static or wistful. It’s a certain knowledge that God loves His children and He is going to give us exactly what we need. Even if the work is hard, even if there are times you have to work alone, remember that there’s blessing ahead and it’s going to be exactly what you need and it’s going to taste even better after all that work. Don’t JUST wait. Work.
I’m saved by the blood of Jesus, so I can work in peace, knowing that He’s always taking care of me. You know the only thing I have to do before I die? Live. That’s it. Live in the delight of my Lord. Do the work I’ve been given and give thanks for it. Will that someday take the form of a house and a husband and some adorable fat babies? I sure hope so. But I’m not just going to sit and wait, because my life isn’t defined by what I don’t have right now. I have so much to be grateful for and so much to do! Time to get busy. Keep praying, keep desiring good things, strong in faith that God gives His children everything they need and blesses far beyond.
If you’re waiting and struggling, maybe despairing, whether it’s for waiting for marriage, a job, reconciling with your family, or healing, I understand how hard it is. I’m a 30-year-old virgin. I know what waiting is like. I look back on some of my life’s rough patches and just see darkness. But I also know that those are my growth rings. The hard times are the times when I’ve grown the most. Those are my book of Psalms. Seek out wise counselors, invest in friends, invest in family. Don’t be embarrassed to cry in front of other people. Let other people help you. You don’t have to go it all by yourself. You really don’t. If you find that you’re stuck in airport mode, always sitting and waiting for that one thing that is out of reach, leave the airport.