We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
This morning I woke up to see the sun reflecting the arch of a rainbow across my entire wall. “Hope! God is present and active today and tomorrow,” it seemed to say over me. I wondered why living with hope is a modus operandi so easily forgotten in my life.
Maybe I don’t trust the word ‘hope’ because its truest meaning is often diluted into mere wishful thinking by the way we throw it around.
When we use the word hope to describe less than the redemptive power of God, we invite ourselves into a ping-pong game between optimism and cynicism. But aren’t these concepts prescribed by our world in newspapers, music and films actually enemies of true hope? Neither optimism nor cynicism really grapples with the world we live in.
Optimism is that hanging cherry air freshener I put in my car rear view mirror that hides the stench of my mouldy Starbucks coffee cup with a stronger, artificial smell. In other words, it asks me to ignore the vile realities in and around me in order to focus my attention on an idea that may not be trustworthy.
Sometimes it’s a good, spiritual idea that I am meant to adopt because it sounds like something the Bible or other Christians would say.
However, optimism is suspect because it never invites me to walk into the complexities of life. Instead of acknowledgement, optimism ignores so much of my experience.
Cynicism is just as unhelpful. It decides the last chapter by how the current chapter is turning out.
It invites me to ignore the genuine good of life, from the thrill of a baby’s birth or meeting someone special to the most basic experiences of life, such as a hard laugh or cry, delicious wine, or the smell of the forest.
When consumed by cynicism, I am numbed to the experience of living as an embodied soul surrounded by beauty within and without.
I have predicted my downfall, and that of the entire world around me. I think I know all there is to know and conclude that it’s just not worth it. To put it bluntly, cynicism makes me arrogant.
So, before I got out of bed, I declared war.
Optimism is out. Cynicism is out. Simply put, I need hope!
Let’s get clear that to be a believer means that I walk through the world with eyes that trust that redemption has begun in and all around me and will be completed in full. And it also means that I walk with my eyes open to the world, not ignoring the depth of pain in my heart and in my neighbours.
I don’t get to ignore hardship to avoid trusting God at the level my deepest pain resides. I don’t get to decide that because I can’t see a way, there isn’t one. I can’t let cynicism prove that hope is a false advertisement by killing my desire for a full life.
My new way of being requires humility, courage and friends like Father Time and his wife Patience.
Hope is difficult. It often feels like a burden because we have to keep choosing it, even when we don’t feel like it or when it doesn’t seem reasonable. However, hope will not let us down because hope is not a mind trick or spiritual gymnastic routine. It is our decision to trust in Christ.
As Christians, we have no alternative but hope because it is the Way we have accepted. So may our modus operandi be not a flimsy optimism, nor an arrogant cynicism, but full trust and belief that we can truly put our hope in the promise that all things are being made well and will be made well.
Photo by (flickr CC) Christian Weidinger