Live in Hope
Many words have become pedestrian and shamelessly over-used in our culture. I vividly remember my Sr. High English teacher, Mr. Pell, quite a character I might add, who would jump up on the desks in an elaborate, frenzied state every time one of his students dared to use the word “great”. He even went so far as charging a dollar for every “great” red-lined in an essay, or spoken aloud in class. But I think Mr. Pell would agree with me today that you just cannot ever use the word Hope enough! In a world plagued with war, poverty, cancer, the list of human suffering is endless, how does one endure without hope? If only all of humanity could have the invisible tattoo, live in hope, engraved upon their spirit, a holy reminder that even on the darkest night, God promises little glimmers of hope, so we may see our way forward. I have found that to live in hope requires courage, perseverance, and most importantly a faith in Something larger than oneself. Hope is not blind optimism, pie-in-the-sky delusions, or a pair of rose-colored glasses. Hope is a theology, a way of understanding and approaching the world, one humble step at a time. Make no mistake, there is nothing easy about living in hope! It requires an excavation of the soul, a digging deep when everything in you wants to throw in the towel and succumb to the darkness.
Real hope begins with the realization that life is unpredictable, often unfair, unjust, full to the rim with disappointments, and one where bad things tragically happen to good people. It always amazes me when people cross my path that have not accepted this reality. In my book, Alma Gloria and the Olive Tree, one of my characters, Beatrice, moves into a church, determined to escape her death sentence from cancer. She is convinced that God will protect her in His house. If only that could be true. But I know first hand that there is no earthly place, even one with a steeple, that can protect us from the suffering of this world. It took two towers coming down in a bright September blue sky, a surgeon’s words, “your child has cancer,” and hundreds of other people’s lives that have intersected with my own over the last five years as a minister for me to realize that there are no guarantees on this side of heaven.
I fear I would cause many of you to blush if you were to witness any one of my “shower chats” with God over the years. I probably should start paying penance right this very moment for my irreverent tone and use of colorful words! But if I am honest, it has taken some mighty beating of the chest, shameless hollering at my Creator, many rivers of tears, and an ongoing soul excavation, to understand what it truly means to live in hope. In Dante’s Inferno, above the entrance to Hell, is inscribed, “All hope abandon, ye who enter here.” What Dante understood was the truth that in the moment you abandon hope, you abandon God, and the only place left to go is a Hell of our own creation. It reminds me of a ship, lost on the stormy seas of life. With nothing but darkness on all sides, many in the crew throw up the white flag of defeat, but then there is that one sailor soul, throat parched, the compass of God quivering in his right hand, that refuses to leave his position at the bow, confident that the lighthouse of mercy is ahead. That is living in hope!
To bear up with hope is to acknowledge the promise that come what may, we are never alone, where there is Darkness, there will always be glimmers of light, and good triumphs over evil. You can tell a hope-bearer by the way they face adversity. They end up being better versions of themselves in the world, “lighthouses” for others to follow. Maybe the single most important requirement of living in hope is being willing to be the hope for another. We are all only human, which means there are things in this life that can literally tear the seams of the spirit away from its mortal frame. And that is when we need someone else to lift up the banner of hope for us, be the beacon of light in the dark sea, carry our faith when we simply cannot take another step. God never promised a life free from suffering, but He did promise that we would never have to go it alone. So, when I sign these blog posts Live in Hope, just know that it is a constant act of will and faith on my part to live in hope. It is also a privilege to try my best to be the hope for another. No stepping through Dante’s Inferno on my watch if I can help it! As my own path continues to wind up, down, and around, a time may come again when I too will need another to lift the banner of hope for me! All for one, one for all, in HOPE!
Live in Hope,