Anne Shirley, heroine from Anne of Green Gables, famously said: “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn’t it? Look at these maple branches. Don’t they give you a thrill—several thrills?”
Yes, I admit that I get a thrill from October, several kinds in fact. Though it makes me as basic as they come, I am not immune to the seasonal joys of apple picking and pumpkin patches; I like cozy sweaters and the sound of geese honking overhead as they migrate south. The maple tree in my backyard is a gorgeous purpley-red and I, for one, am happier for it.
But October also provides another sort of thrill when you live in a climate where winters are both long and hard. October is a month for shaking out coats and boots from storage and weatherizing your windows. Light is waning. Days are shorter. Transition is happening, ready or not. Brene Brown calls this experience “foreboding joy” — it’s the sense that one cannot fully appreciate or celebrate something because the other shoe is about to drop. It’s the knowledge that, though this pumpkin looks charming on my doorstep, I can’t quite enjoy it because subzero temperatures are, indeed, ahead.
The only true way to combat these feelings of impending doom, Brown asserts, is to practice gratitude. That seems to be the core piece of celebrating anything, whether it be public parks, adoption, milestones, or healthcare. The world is a terrible place (see my lament below), and it can feel downright wrong to be joyful in times like these. Yet joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, a sign of God’s activity in our lives. Embracing this Christian virtue means practicing thankfulness, even for something as small as the red and yellow leaves on my sidewalk.
Lament: Las Vegas
When I woke up on Monday morning and made my way out of bed, my husband greeted me with a cup of coffee at our dining room table. He was already dressed for work. We said our good mornings and talked about logistics of the day like we always do. My mind fluttered with grocery lists and work emails and kindergarten pick-up times.
But before walking out the door, his bicycle helmet in hand, my husband turned to me and said: “I wouldn’t look at the news this morning if you can.”
“What happened?” I asked. I looked around for my smartphone, wondering how quickly I could pull up my news ap. My husband didn’t answer right away; he was looking over at our two-year-old perched in his booster chair, eating oatmeal and yogurt by the spoonful.
“Another shooting,” he said quietly.
“50, so far.”
And that was the extent of our conversation. We kissed goodbye and I cleared the breakfast dishes, another morning in America. Another day in my memory that claims title to most deadly mass shooting in modern American history.
How differently I felt in 1999 when two high school students in Columbine, Colorado had just shot up their school. I can still remember the smell of sweat from the high school weight room where I stood and stared at the TV screen mounted on the wall, my arms wrapped around my torso in a desperate hug. The news coverage showed grainy footage of students running across the parking lot and aerial shots of the high school where 12 students and one teacher lost their lives. It felt like the world was coming to an end; it was a day that I knew I would never, ever forget.
The Las Vegas shooting, by contrast, is blurry in my consciousness. I feel numb and haven’t closely followed the coverage or clicked on articles to learn more about the victims. People tweeting about their “thoughts and prayers” over and over again after mass shootings like these is beginning to feel like an insult. Nothing, nothing, is changing.
I don’t know what to say and I don’t know how to mourn the victims of Las Vegas. All I know is that lament is about total honesty before God, even when our feelings are blunted and hope seems futile. Maybe this, for now, is enough for God to hold.