Hope. It’s one of those words for me that, similar to grace, faith, and yoga, I know exists and I acknowledge that some people find great fulfillment in, but for me, continues to be a constant struggle to fit into my own life on a regular basis. Or, more honestly, is an impossibility for me because I literally have never and most likely never will be able to bend down and touch my own toes. God made me with some flexibility issues, both physically and emotionally and so yoga will probably always be an enigma to me. But grace, faith and hope? Those I should probably continue to strive for.
I came across the concept of hope again this morning as I prepared for my small group this week on Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. (I know. Shut up, Reagan. We know you think she’s awesome. Well, she is and this is my blog and you choose to read it so…deal.) The chapter we are discussing this week is all about resiliency and why some people simply appear to handle all of the stresses of life better than other people. An obvious quality that came up in Dr.Brown’s research was that these resilient people tended to possess an inordinate amount of hope.
When I read this for the first time, my heart sank a little bit. Just like my misconceptions about grace, I came chocked full of misunderstandings about hope. And upon thinking about the concept of hope, I always imagined in my mind a person who was about to be knocked over time and time again by life when it failed to live up to their expectations. Like Charlie Brown truly believing that this time Lucy will actually let him kick the football, hope always ends with an “ARGH!” and a new perspective of the sky as you look at it from flat on your back.
But, of course, I was wrong. Dr. Brown discovers that hope is not a feeling or an emotion but rather a cognitive way of thinking. It’s a learned and practiced skilled. And I realized this morning that hope is also a journey. As I was preparing this morning and learning more about hope, I couldn’t help but get a new picture of hope in my head. This picture was more reminiscent of all the great adventure movies or books I have stored in my brain. I thought about Frodo Baggins and his quest to rid the world of a life destroying ring. It’s an epic adventure! And like any good adventure it has equal parts success and defeat. You don’t always know for sure that everything will turn out ok in the end, but man, you really hope so.
Hope brings with it an uncertainty. Its counterpart, faith, fuels the fire and brings certainty back to the table but hope walks blindly on to the goal, really really really hoping it will all work out…because it has to. I think our world needs some extra hope these days. We live in uncertain times. For most of us the upcoming election has done nothing but remind us all of what we hate about American politics but yet we can’t not participate. We need a little hope that no matter who is sworn in this January, it will all be ok in the end. We watched an already frail and economically challenged country get battered by a hurricane a few weeks ago. We see children without homes and mothers unsure of where the next meal is coming from. And crazy as it sounds, we must hope for them too.
I need hope in my own life. There are relationships that I have lost that I need to hope will return to me one day. Regardless of any proof of evidence that life can be breathed in to them, I have to hope that they can be restored. I have to hope for healing in own life for deep wounds that never seem to close. And I have to hope that I can be a good parent to Levi and that Greg and can I teach him how to be a generous and respectful and kind and honest and all those godly things, young man. I need hope.
Because hope is not silly. Hope is not naive. Hope is not powerless. Hope is survival. Hope is not Charlie Brown flat on his back looking up at the sky. Hope is a tiny hobbit, defying all odds and saving his world. Hope is crucial to our ability to get up in the morning and face our own demons down and conquer the gremlins in our world that want us to give up and die. Hope feeds orphans and it mends the broken. Hope is a choice. And it is a learned and cultivated habit. We all need a little more hope in our lives. So maybe start with the small stuff. Be hopeful that your day will work out ok when it is filled with to do lists and unreturned phone calls. Be hopeful for your kids, that they will make good choices today and return to you happy, healthy and feeling loved. Be hopeful for our nation, that no matter who sits in the Oval Office, God has not forgotten how much he loves us. Be hopeful for Haiti that there are good people on the ground there, helping them recover and restore. Be generous, be kind and be hopeful. Because you are a survivor.