...on Hope

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hope has been a recurring theme for me for about 3 years now. I'm starting to wonder if it will always be. I have wooden letters in my front window spelling out the word, and while I think they would look really fabulous on my newly painted green dining room wall, I can't bring myself to move them, because in the front window they seem like a beacon, like a candle left lit, left waiting for the return of something, someone. You know? They seem more hopeful there.

I've learned a few things about Hope through these years. It didn't take very long to come to the understanding that hope just feels better than despair, so why not hope. When you are faced with the choice of despair or hope every morning; before your eyes even flutter open from the dreams you wish you wouldn't have had, you learn pretty quickly that you might as well choose the hope because it just feels better for now. And that gets you through bleakness one day at a time. A wise man taught me early on to paint a picture of what I really dreamed of, what I really hoped for, to write it down, and then remember it, cling to it on the blackest days no matter what anyone says. I'm so deeply grateful to my Jesus for sending him to teach me that at just the right moment. That's actually why my blog is named Zihuatenejo and Hope. It's from Shawshank Redemption. Zihuatenejo was the vision, that got Andy Dufresne through all those years of an unjust prison sentence, solitary confinement, unspeakable acts, and 200 yards of raw sewage. Andy clung to his dream of a future in a Mexican fishing village on the sea even when his best friends demanded that he let it go so they could all cope better with their reality of life in prison. But Andy would not let go of his picture. Their protests only made him more determined.

Times are tough and I think it's interesting how much all of a sudden we're hearing pastors give talks and sermon series' on hope. I listen carefully when they do, to see if they'll say the things I would say, but they usually don't. They usually say things like, "be careful what you hope in. Christ alone will satisfy," "God is our only hope", stuff like that. I sort of think those are really churchy replies to really gritty, earthy problems. It seems like a really disconnected approach to the topic. Might just be me.

Here's what I know about hope and what I wish the pastors would say to my hurting friends. Dear friends, hope is life giving--every time. I would not tell someone "be careful what you hope in". Hope is not something to be careful with. I would say hope, hope, hope and then when all hope is lost, hope somemore. Hope in the right things, hope in the wrong things, hope for goodness, hope for restoration, hope for redemption, hope for another chance, hope for forgiveness, hope for a fresh start. Hope in the dream that's so beautiful it still makes you cry to look at it. Yes, hope in that. And I would say this because what I know is that Hope, when practiced, brings life to withering hearts. It's one of God's universal principles. You know, like how the laws of physics govern our physical existence...God has spiritual "laws" that govern His spiritual creation as well, and Hope is one of them. The law of gravity says that when I drop an apple it falls down, and the law of hope says that when I hope, my heart grows stronger, healthier. Possibilities open up where there were no possibilities. Like a stream that allows a stand of poplars to grow in a desert, hope gives life--every time. And because it is one of His universal laws, something that governs all of his creation, it works this way whether my hope is founded in Him or not...just like gravity works even if I'm an atheist. This is what I've learned.

There's more that should be said though. Proverbs tells us that "Hope deferred makes the heart sick," and this is why pastors say things like, "be careful what you hope in". No one knows what to do with the heart sickness that comes from deferred hope, so they think it's better not to hope in anything that has the potential of being deferred or cancelled. Even Solomon didn't give us a remedy or cure for such disease, only mentioned that it is what happens when hope is put off. (I'm sighing here...oh the aching that comes from this sickness). For the longest time I haven't known what to do with my diseased heart. I didn't have a choice really. I was given my sorrow, I was sent a directive to hope against all hope and then day after day, year after year, those hopes have been deferred. I'm heartsick and in pain. I am. I wrestle, like the Psalmist of chapter 13...everyday. I've toyed with the other route, maybe despairing and walking away from the hopes would make me less sick. It doesn't. Hope still feels better, still gives life, even hope deferred. And so like the psalmist, my wrestling always ends with, "but I trust in your unfailing love...you have been good...you will be good to me."

You know how when a little kid comes up to you and shows you their loose tooth that just won't come out and you cringe because you can remember exactly how that hurts? That's how it is for me when I hear the voice of a friend who is living with deferred hope now. I cringe. "Oh how that hurts," I want to say. "Be strong, be brave. It's alright, I know it won't kill you, because I've lived with mine for 3 years now and it's actually making me stronger," I want to say. I don't say it, because they don't want to think they might have to live with it for 3 years, but I wish the pastor who's speaking on hope would say it. I wish he would say it's ok to be sick because lots of God's all-time favorite people were really sick or imprisoned or enslaved for a really long time before He proceeded to forever change the world with thier sacrificed lives.

There's a part in the first Narnia book where Aslan is speaking to Digory (he's the one with the sick mom right?) and Digory sees a big sorrowful tear on Aslan's cheek. He's very surprised that the lion would cry and Aslan says to him quietly, "yes, you and I are the only ones here who know of such sorrow. Let us be good to one another." I say this to my heartsick and discouraged friends. I'm keeping my little wooden letters up in the front window and earlier when I wrote about hoping in the dream so beautiful you cry...I cried over my dream...again. I still hope for beauty in the face of impossibility. (oh my, how I wish you could have seen the face of impossibility I had to look into today!) And I charge you to keep hoping too, because hope gives life and strength. And also, if we're the only ones who know this sorrow here, let's be good to one another.