Last year we bought tickets for the Van Gogh exhibit touring the country. It called to us. Apparently, the art isn’t set in frames on a wall but projected on the walls and you can sit there are drinking in the beauty.
After an immersive experience of this pandemic, we felt ready to immerse ourselves in beauty. We were cautious and tried to be realistic, so we bought tickets for months in advance hoping the pandemic would be over when we saw Van Gogh. Perhaps, we were too optimistic. The Van Gogh exhibit tickets are for next week.
Since the widespread outbreak of COVID cases in spring 2020 its been a rollercoaster – spikes in infections followed by drops in cases. Sheltering in place, disinfecting the groceries, then finding a vaccine only to have last summer’s hopes dashed by the Delta variant. Finally when we emerged from that we faced Omicron in December. And after two years rallying every resource to understand this disease, we still have a lot to learn about where it comes from, how it is transmitted and why and when people are most susceptible. The more we know about COVID 19, the more humbled we become by how much we have to learn.
Yet, we have every intention of attending the Van Gogh, and hoping for the best. Why? Somehow it seems a risk worth taking. Like many of you, I feel we’ve been guided by cautious optimism throughout this experience. Its not reckless and we’ve all been shaken, for sure. But hope sits on your shoulders when you least expect it. Hope is a funny thing. It’s not just a calculated risk. Hope is delicate, but resilient. Hope may seem fragile in some ways, but don’t ever underestimate people whose hope in the future is bedrock and connected to their faith. Emily Dickinson wrote, “Hope” is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all. In the chilliest landscape and on the harshest sea, nothing can stop the sweet song of hope.
I won’t pretend to tell you that I understand hope. Hope doesn’t make any sense. It’s not rational or logical. Even though you can’t explain hope; neither can you explain it away. Dickinson says it arrives like a bird when the scenery is bleakest. It arrives like an answer to prayer, a quiet prayer you may not even know you’ve given voice to.
The bible is full of stories of people who were mystified by hope’s thrilling song. People who saw waters parting and were not sure whether the sand was safe, but took a chance on hope. People who heard a wandering prophet speak of God’s kingdom, in ways that stretched their minds; they might have argued with him, but, instead, they gave over to hope. In every case these stories tell of people who had no real reason to be optimistic, or glad for tomorrow. But this hope they found in taking risks, had legs. It proved contagious. It set the stage for a whole new way forward.
We’ll be going to Van Gogh next week, God willing.