H.A.G.S. and Other Unattainable Hopes

Can anyone really have a great summer, in these conditions?

There I was, standing with a fleece blanket over my head in the dark storage closet of my apartment, basking in the glow of my laptop screen. I took a deep breath and hit record, trying to stand as still as possible so as to not knock over my vacuum cleaner, broom, Swiffer mop, stack of chairs, TV tray, bag of plastic bags, etc. and thereby ruin the recording. With my voiceover voice, I cheerily delivered the first line of the script:  

“Summer is just around the corner, and it’s a great time for fun in the…”[Cue: violent cough, obnoxious throat clearing, nose-blowing, body movement causing bag-of-bags to tip over, more coughing, existential sigh]

I knew that my corporate health care employer would not care for the added “sound effects” I captured while recording a voiceover for a cheery promotional video. The sounds of my Covid-19 symptoms did not exactly go along with the “happy summer vibe” of the script. The phrase “Fun in the sun” should not be spoiled by coughing, mucus-expelling, or existential sighing. Not here, not now — not this summer. Needless to say, I had to try again. I had to contain my cough, conceal my congestion, and suppress the sighing; summer was just around the corner…and so was my deadline to finish the video.

This is why I couldn’t help but laugh along a few weeks ago while listening to the last episode of the Mockingcast before Dave and RJ and Sarah took their summer break. Towards the end of the podcast, RJ shared that his hope and prayer was that summer break would be restful: a time of recovery for everyone from all the challenges of the last few years. And as Sarah so truthfully and comically does, she replied, “Well I don’t think that’s going to happen, but I think that’s a nice thought,” following it with a hearty and resounding laugh. Not this summer.
Sarah continued:

The thing about hope, to me, is that you truly don’t know hope until you know how powerless you are. I think we’re so powerless over the way that anything turns out. I think I didn’t realize that until I lost so much … until I became an adult and the plans I thought I was going to have laid out didn’t work out … I think for me, that’s where hope lives: it is that we have no control over anything … Good luck out there this summer, folks!

Perhaps, like me, Sarah’s words bore the honesty you’ve been too scared to say out loud yourself. As much as I have wished, hoped, and even prayed that summer 2022 would fulfill the prophecy of middle school yearbook notes — H.A.G.S.! (Have A Great Summer) — Sarah is right. Having a great summer, a restful summer, is not really in our control.

But gosh-darn, won’t we try! Won’t we: push through, take a cough drop, pop a Tylenol, try the essential oil our weird neighbor told us about out of desperation. Won’t we: create a list, make a plan, buy the tickets, take a road trip, apply sunscreen every 2 hours, order one of those attractive matte-finish water bottles that will definitely help us to stay hydrated! Unrelenting fatigue, who?

We all want to have great summers. And so we try to have great summers. After all, we’re on a deadline: only three months for fun in the sun before the clock strikes midnight. But as Sarah reminds us, we’re all so powerless over the way that anything turns out. By the end of August, our pursuit of H.A.G.S. will leave us feeling, well, haggard.

In my case, I’ve felt the pressure of H.A.G.S. as I realized that my spring case of Covid is going to haunt me into the summer — the specter of unrelenting fatigue. What about my plans to train for a marathon? To hike the trails near my house with friends? To be a person who, if they got Covid, would only get a mild case, a manageable case, an easily-overcome case? 

The pressure of H.A.G.S. will be felt by adults with air conditioning and pool passes and thrice-stamped Covid vaccination cards. It will be felt by pastors who are finally on sabbatical and teachers who are finally on break and parents who feel guilty for not seeing their kids a lot but feel bad to admit that summer break often breaks them. It will be felt by families on vacations that they saved for all year only to see their best-laid plans spoiled by thunderstorms and lines and yelling matches and turds in the swimming pool. It will be felt at the gas pump, at picnics with friends, in the apologetic disclaimer that accompanies summer’s hottest show because its fictitious violence could be disturbing in light of current events.

Can anyone really have a great summer, in these conditions? To paraphrase Sarah, I don’t think that’s going to happen, but it’s a nice thought. 

As the voiceover script I recorded a few weeks ago said, summer really is just around the corner. I, too, want my fun in the sun. I didn’t want to start it this way, with yet-another essay about how the world can be sad, how I can be sad. But my plans for having a great summer — and I reckon yours, too — are not within my control. Not this summer. Not ever, really. But as Sarah’s comments on the Mockingcast suggested, I am somehow finding that hope does live here, too, in this strange, sad summer. 

Hope: that thing with feathers. Hope: that unseen force that frees us from expectation and embarrassment. Hope: that pillar of fire in the night. Hope: that truth that no matter how messed up things get, through Christ, we cannot and will not be cut off from a God who is good. Not this summer, and not ever.

So as we flip our calendars to June, I do hope you Have A Great Summer. But more than that, and at the risk of sounding like a cheesy youth pastor, I hope you Have A Grace-Filled Summer.

I hope you have the kind of summer where you remember that the very least of all the saints are still given grace, even that mom who never pays attention to her kids when she brings them to the pool so the youngest one keeps pooping in the shallow end. I hope you have the kind of summer where all your insufficiencies would become a testimony to God’s sufficient love, the force behind anything good and beautiful and true. I hope you have the kind of summer where you see suffering but you also see restoration, where you forgive and ask for and receive forgiveness. I hope you have the kind of summer where you “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence” (Heb 4:16), receiving mercy and finding grace in a summer that probably won’t be all that great.

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4 responses to “H.A.G.S. and Other Unattainable Hopes”

  1. Cali Yee says:

    What a comfort it is to be given the permission to have an okay-ish summer. Wonderful post, Grace!

  2. Pierre says:

    This is a great read, thank you

  3. Stephanie says:


  4. Sharon Haylett says:

    Ah, but it is that hope that will make the summer great. Hope that allows for attitudes that accept what is and find something to be grateful for in it. Hope that brings peace in chaos, joy in sorrow, gratitude in want. Hope can be the air we breathe that allows us to live beyond what is.💝

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