It’s been raining in California, seems like for weeks. I know, I know, we need it. Thank God for the rain. But give me some sunshine now. I’m ready. Give me spring blossoms and birds. Let me imagine long summer evenings on the patio. Really what I need right now, what we all need, is some kind of certainty, clarity, assurance. Summer will come again, won’t it?

I’ve been thinking maybe these frightening times can shape a new kind of hope within us.

As I am thinking through another day of rising numbers of sick people, real people out there, not just numbers; as I am pondering the disruptions in our lives, the closures, the layoffs, the new online teaching and working, families piling in on top of each other; as I am watching the markets drop and rise precipitously once again—I am asking, as we all are, will we ever return to normal?

And yet as I say that I am not sure I want to return to normal. I surely don’t want any part of this brutal, scary, disruptive time to become normal, but I don’t want to return to the normal we’ve been living with for so long either, all the hatred loose in our world, all the divisions among us, all the loneliness, the anxiety, the desperation, the addictions, the homeless in our midst, all the hunt for blame, the search for a savior.

When I see those pictures of quarantined Italians dancing and singing from their balconies, in Milan or Naples, sharing music and laughter and most of all a deeper sense of being together, I say, I want something like that. That could be a new normal we might wish for.

What if something deep within us could get changed, an attitude, a perspective, a vision for how we might live differently? What if we could come to see we’ve been missing the mark for a long time, in our personal lives, for sure in our society, with our intense, obsessive focus on ourselves? How can we learn to sing from the balconies, for our own joy, for the good of the neighborhood?

Maybe, just maybe, we are going through the pain that always precedes redemption. Maybe we might come out of this like a sick man healed or a woman who has just given birth. We wait for now. Pain is not easy. Uncertainty still prevails. But what else is hope than the waiting through dark nights, knowing, just knowing, we will see the sun rise again in the morning. Morning is on the way.

The twentieth-century Benedictine monk Thomas Merton tells a story about

the old days, on Easter night, the Russian peasants used to carry the blessed fire home from church. The light would scatter and travel in all directions through the darkness, and the desolation of the night would be pierced and dispelled as lamps came on in the windows of the farmhouses, one by one.

It occurs to me, what if we are the ones to carry the fire from the church so that each home within our village might have new light? What if we, each one of us, could fling open our shutters and step out on the balcony and sing a song of joy. Maybe we could give our world a new sense of hope. Maybe we could plant a new light and sing new songs. Maybe, then, we’ll turn together to watch the sun rise again.