Emily Click, assistant dean for ministry studies and field education and Lecturer on Ministry, offers a reflection for Holy Week.
Anyone who has taken a long-distance drive with young children can tell you their four most dreaded words: “Are we there yet?” In pre-GPS days, the answer was ethically easier because one was fudging real uncertainty about the true answer. The question itself also raises dread because it captures the distinction between childhood and adulthood: children live in the in-between times, expecting that one asset of adulthood is enhanced certainty about things like: are we there yet. The adult, in forming their response, has to juggle the actuality of uncertainty, the challenge of discovering how to disappoint children at a rate they can stand, while also shielding themselves from the awful truth the drive is taking much longer than anticipated.
I would nominate: “Are we there yet?” as a slogan for this pandemic year. We are living suspended in a world filled with the kind of uncertainty that smashes and yet also necessitates hope. We long for someone to provide us with definitive but also satisfying answers. Are we near the conclusion of this thing? We want to ask someone to tell us a story that paints pictures filled with promise, for then we can hold on a bit longer. Tell us about waterfalls, fishing in a stream, skinny dipping, naps in a hammock, sleeping under the stars. Tell us what it will be like when we get there.
I recently attended a “zoomemorial” for a loved one who died of COVID. People signed on from Latvia, Germany, and across the United States to remember our loved one. There was a crowd of witnesses. No one really mentioned COVID—what would be the point? However, as at any good memorial, stories were told of this person’s long life. We laughed, we remembered things like skiing too fast at too old an age, towing targets behind your plane in WWII for training purposes, and someone rollerblading when they were 80 years old, just to be with the grandchildren. These were stories of the past but for an hour or so, they also provided a taste of what it will be like when we “get there.” We will ski with abandon, take courageous risks again, and buddy up with much younger/older generations. There is joy ahead. We must live in faith.
Holy week is a time to remember that this is the hallmark of faith: we do not know how we will get there nor do we know when, but we still hold on to hope. Torment like the cross may be ahead, and when we find an empty tomb, we may be plunged into utter confusion. Yet there will be barbecues on the beach, there will be times of breaking bread and passing the wine while candles flicker and stories fill the air. These pandemic times are hard for all of us, though we all know they are harder for some. We have a common task: to reassure each other when one of us just has to ask, “Are we there yet?”
This piece appeared in the March 30, 2021 edition of "Practicing Hope," the daily newsletter of Harvard's Memorial Church. To subscribe, visit the Memorial Church Website.