“You know how the grass is bright green after it rains?”
The 13-year-old in our house was commenting on something she had noticed recently. I needed to hear that refreshing observation today. I found out late last night that a high school classmate of mine died yesterday from liver failure. He and I were not close, but my memories of him—all positive—came flooding back. I woke up this morning with an emotional hangover.
And it wasn’t just from the sad news from the night before, but from the cumulative stack of brittle grief upon which that news was placed: sickness, death, and loss within our congregation; the rights and very lives of transgender people—even trans youth—being attacked; more than a year of a pandemic and all that has been affected by it. Her innocent comment about grass being bright green after the rain turned my head and heart once again toward the psalmist’s assurance that “weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
Sometimes lately, though, I can’t tell when it’s morning or when it’s night. When bad news disrupts the good intermittently throughout the day, finding rest in the solace of night becomes a confusing ritual. It’s tough to distinguish between shadowy rain shoving hope into the ground and shining blades of grass reaching heavenward. I know that joy comes in the morning, but when is it morning? And can’t the morning stay with me for longer than a few hours?
She continued, “Well, the other day I looked out the window and the clouds were really gray, and at the same time the grass was bright green. It just looked really cool seeing those two things together.”
There it was: my seek-and-ye-shall-find moment for today. Yes, joy comes in the morning, but in the death and resurrection of Jesus, even the temporal was defeated, toppled by life everlasting. So, while I’m groping for moments that will come after the rain and gray clouds subside, the eternally loving God is transcending time itself with goodness and new life firmly planted in every present moment. Joy may follow pain in our human stages of grief, but the paradox of joy being present with us in our pain is no less real when life appears dense with gray clouds.
Her comment then turned my head and heart to another scripture, a familiar story we’re preparing to hear this Holy Week: “Early in the morning of the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb” (John 20:1). While it was still night, before the morning had broken through, Mary Magdalene faithfully clung to hope: the belief in something she could not see. And while it was still ominously overcast, the dim image of a stone rolled away from an empty tomb was revealed to her. Shadows loomed over a shining image of love unleashed into the world, and I imagine it looked really cool seeing those two things together.
There are times when shadows are so thick that it seems like that’s all there is. Look again. Take courage. Remember that no amount of cumulative sorrow can extinguish joy that witnesses to the truth: that love is timelessly present, and love is with us—sustaining us and walking with us—even now.