Sometimes “despair” feels like the last word.

Have you ever had one of those days when it is difficult to function? Lots to do, no energy to do any of it? The smallest of difficulties becomes an impossible hurdle. A minor annoyance is worth crying over. An irritation in the throat turns into a cold. A little tiredness becomes exhaustion. A little stress becomes full-blown anxiety.

For whatever reason, I’ve had a few of those days right in a row. It has not been easy to function.

But yesterday we had our monthly potluck scheduled here at the house after church, and when we finally began to prepare the promised soup and homemade bread on Saturday night in preparation of the potluck, I was not feeling very hospitable, to say the least. I was, in fact, quite in despair about my weekend, feeling like I’d been run over by a semi of stress.

Around 7, I started making the oatmeal bread (one of my favorite kinds of bread) and J began cutting up butternut squash for the soup. Around 9 or so, I was getting ready to shape the bread into loaves, the dough having risen twice. I was planning to put the bread pans in the frig and bake it in the morning. The dough was in my favorite Pyrex bowl (which I’ve written about before), and my  hands were oily from punching it down. This was not a good combination. As I grabbed the bowl to move it over to another counter, it slipped out of my hands.

Pyrex is supposed to be sturdy, and I’ve actually dropped this bowl before. But Saturday night, it must have hit the floor at just the right angle, or the dough had just enough weight behind it. Whatever the reason, it shattered. The shards of glass went everywhere, including into the dough itself. It couldn’t be saved. None of it.

How did I react? Let’s just say that this was a low moment. Very low indeed.

On a different day, on a different weekend, I could probably have handled it just fine. I could have shrugged, said a little “oops,” been a little disappointed about the bowl itself breaking, considering it was my favorite. But overall, I could have recovered. Not this time. Not this weekend. Not in the face of (what felt like) forced hospitality approaching the next day.

It was a low moment.

In yesterday’s sermon about the Joel passage from the Lectionary, our pastor mentioned a quote from Frederick Buechner. It was a simple idea, as most Buechner thoughts are, but it was something I personally really needed to hear. (Though I haven’t been able to track down the original source yet, I’m including it here as a belated Sabbath meditation.)

Buechner says that though despair often feels like the last word, it isn’t. It is rather the next-to-last word.

The last word, in fact, is hope.

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7 comments on “Sometimes “despair” feels like the last word.

  1. Craig says:

    I’m sorry to hear you’ve had a rough few days, friend. I too start feeling the tires of the stress-semi quite a bit this time of the semester; if I can find out where that sucker’s parked, I’ma gonna knife those tires.

    In any case don’t hesitate to vent to me, if we ever find one another in the office at the same time. Sending good thoughts your way…

  2. Elizabeth's Dad says:

    Thanks for sharing about an emotion that most of us experience and others lie about. I love ‘semi of stress’ to descibe the feeling.

    Craig’s offer to listen to venting is real community. It seems in the sharing we show light on the dark stuff in our lives and it is quicker to get back to hope!

  3. Bonnie says:

    I love you, baby.

  4. Bonnie says:

    Sorry, I’m not nearly as profound as the previous commentors, but I’m the Mom!

  5. Lisa says:

    I’m sorry about your favorite bowl. And I’m sorry about your series of rough days. I so relate to that feeling–the more on my plate sometimes, the less energy I have to do it. And the sense of being anxious and overwhelmed threatens. I’m grateful for this post and the reminder at the end. Recently, when asked to write a sentence including the word “the,” my six year old chose to write “The day is good.” I hung that sentence on my bathroom mirror as a reminder that, even when I start the day dragging with that overwhelmed feeling, the day is, indeed, a gift from the Lord, and therefore very good.

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