I never thought the Pacific Northwest as windy until my husband and I bought a canopy. Rainy? Yes. Sometimes snow? Can you say snow-pocalypse 2017? But windy? Not so much. Yet as we entered into this winter season with all the restrictions with COVID, we still wanted to see our friends and so we naively bought a lovely white canopy on Amazon. The moment the package arrived, I was elated! We were going to have a place for connection, a place to host the people we love and invite new friends over. I couldn’t wait to put it up in the yard and begin adding lawn furniture to make it cozy. As we began to unravel the parts, I realized it was a bit larger than I had anticipated and couldn’t put it in the location we had planned. But we are flexible people and we found a great place, well the only place, really, that it would fit. Once up and tied down, we were thrilled and excited to invite our friends over the very next weekend.
Then the wind came and snapped our dreams of connection like a dried twig. We found it crumpled and in pieces just days after we put it up. Fortunately, none of the poles had actually broken, they were just slightly bent. We took it down and accessed what we could fix with the damaged parts. I ended up bringing some parts inside because they had no chance of bending back to a functional state if left out in the cold. So like finding a kitten in a snowstorm, I brought our cold dream of connection inside hoping that it would stop the shivering. It did for a time. We managed to fixed any bent pieces and on our next sunny day, we put the whole thing back together piece by piece, taking extra care everything was secure. We weighed it with bricks and ties, doing everything we could to protect it from the wind. It was ready again to host.
By this point, I began watching for wind alerts. My anxiety turned in hyper vigilance over protecting our canopy. I even downloaded an app that specifically helped me track the wind speed in my area. I was on guard and there was no freakin’ way a 7 mph wind was going to take my joy of connection away this time! Yet, a few days later and despite the extra precaution, a small wind blew in over night and snapped a few poles in half. It was finally broken. Worst part was I had friends coming over that evening! Whatever resources I had to offer my friends protection from an October night was gone. To my suprise, the rain held off and it was still a lovely evening. But after that night, the canopy laid broken in the yard for weeks. We didn’t know what to do with it. The pile of white poles and tarps felt like a constant reminder that we don’t have the resources for connection. We had nothing outside ourselves we could offer unlike some of our friends with covered porches or garages. We had a broken apart canopy, rusting in the backyard. A canopy that carried so much joy for me upon arrival, now laid in muddy sorrow.
2020 feels a lot like our canopy. It started out tall and beautiful, full of newness and hope for the future only for it to be broken over and over again. We, like many, have tried to bolster up this year, picking up the broken pieces and tirelessly trying to make it work. Even now, our canopy is half the size, stapled to our back fence and propped up with the remaining poles that didn’t break. Even as I write this very blog, I am watching the wind make our canopy look like someone parachuting into our backyard. Its duct taped and tied to bricks, completely open so the wind can pass through. I can feel it’s fragility, still creating some anxiety for me but our desire for connection drive us to make whatever we have work.
I finally was able to host my first gathering under the canopy the other weekend. Yet as I was hosting my friends under our thrice repaired canopy, I still had a deep sorrow I couldn’t shake. I was perplexed. I had gotten what I wanted: a place to host friends, and yet I struggled to enjoy it. We drank wine and warmed ourselves by the fire. I was able to bring light to the canopy with candles and battery operated lights. Even in that cozy spot I created, I couldn’t shake that I created it out of all broken pieces. It was in the moment I began to notice more brokenness. Friends struggling with parenting. Desires to change the way they look. Conversations were going on all around and yet I wasn’t really connected to any of them. I sat there trying to admire the environment I was able to accomplish with just a few pieces of metal and tarp, and I wondered: Is it too late for joy?
I don’t believe it is but it’s going to take a small miracle to usher in it’s arrival. Because here’s the thing about joy and I mean Christian joy, it takes a miracle to produce it in our lives. It actually took the most fragile of miracles to show us that our earthly home is very much like our canopy: broken and temporary. It takes a small miracle to produce in us fruit that can be harvested even in the coldest of winters. Yet here’s the tricky thing about joy, we don’t get joy without sorrow. We are not in the fullness of God’s Kingdom. We are living inside broken vessels, duct taped and tied down and yet still able to host life; even more, we are able to host more brokenness, offering it warmth and wine. That’s the miracle of joy: brokenness can still host life, even broken life. You see, it isn’t too late for joy because Joy is always with us. She is present in the third person of the Holy Trinity. It is by the Spirit that joy arrives in each of our broken canopies, it is only us who are late to notice Her. It is for joy, that we continue to prop up what is broken so that it can be filled with life. It was for joy, Christ took on what was broken in us so that we could carry eternal life. Joy is never too late when Joy is always Present. Though it may be hard to see Her when all we have are broken pieces. May our joy come knowing that God can do an awful lot with a broken canopy.
I can still see it now, the white canopy flapping violently as a storm blows in. They say it’s going to flood this weekend but nobody told me about yet another wind storm. Will it hold? Who the hell knows. We will be able to repair again? We certainly will try.