I try to start my mornings early, before anyone else stirs. I drag myself up and out of bed, brew some coffee, gather my Bible, notebook, and phone, and step out into the cool morning air on my back patio.
It’s still dark at 5:15 in the morning. Dark, but not silent. For just a few minutes I can hear the crickets creaking out high pitched melodies on their leg-violins. Cicadas the size of my head screech painful cries into the dark, waiting for replies. A flock of birds calls the trees behind my backyard home and they are busy calling back and forth, searching for breakfast. A lone crow cries. Nature is a lot of things, but it’s not silent.
The cool breeze is on my skin and in my hair and I sit back and breathe it in. I sit back and I close my eyes and I wait. After a few minutes, I hear it. It starts out far away, far in the distance. Then it grows as it’s source gets closer and closer to my house.
Honking. Crazy, loud, erratic honking. The misshapen “V” appears over the trees, all necks and wings, silhouetted by the rising sun.
Every morning these geese fly over my house, heading to the dug up field down the street. They hang out there all day and then fly back to wherever they came from at sunset. Today, there are three separate flocks flying side by side, so the honking is louder than usual.
I can’t help but smile at these birds, at the seemingly desperate message the honking conveys. In my mind I hear, “Hey, slow down up there! I can barely keep up!”
“Back in line! Get it together in back!”
“Are we there yet?”
Minutes after the whole gaggle is out of sight, two stragglers come struggling over the trees, yelling at each other, “I can’t believe we overslept!” (My mind is a strange place, just go with it.)
I don’t know why these birds keep flying into my neighborhood and flying out again. They just keep showing up.
I open my Bible to Nehemiah, the story of a man who took on the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. It’s a story about one person who heard God’s call and listened. It’s a story of restoration. And it’s a story of a people who showed up.
By the time Nehemiah set out to rebuild the walls, the Jews had been exiled for generations. Scattered. The people who would soon put up walls and put down roots were far removed from their ancestors; they didn’t know the customs of their people anymore. They were accustomed to blending in to their new cultures for safety and other reasons.
Over the course of time, these people, these strangers were mocked, ridiculed, and threatened. The only reason I can think of for them to continue is they had hope- hope that what once was could be again. It wasn’t particularly easy or fun work. I imagine it must’ve been back-breaking. Families took different sections and each of them worked until their section was complete. Fathers and sons, fathers and daughters. They kept showing up through the pain and fear and exhaustion because they had hope.
And don’t we have hope, too? And if we have this hope, should we not also show up- even when life is painful and scary and exhausting?
The book of Hebrews tells us that,
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
Our hope is Jesus. God.
Our hope demands that we continue to show up in the grittiness of life, even as we rest in His peace and grace.
Our hope tethers us to our God even as life’s winds seem to blow us out of control.
Our hope says things are not as they should be, but someday everything will be made right.
Each of us show up in different ways- nursing a baby in the middle of the night or wiping tears off a teenager’s face, whether you wear high-heels to work or an apron, kissing your husband hello at the end of the day or having a meaningful conversation with a friend.
We show up to the life we have, filled with hope for the life to come.