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.