Sometimes, the way I look at the world is riddled with naivety. In my fluffy little head which chooses to not understand many of life’s complexities, there is the potential that many a wonderful thing might happen one day. I still wait, watching the skies for that ruddy owl with my Hogwarts letter. I still think that I might just win every competition I enter on This Morning. I maintain hope that one day someone will sweep me off my feet with a scrabble/ skywriting/ flash mob/ alphabetti spaghetti proposal. And I maintain the belief that some day, some how I will be plucked from obscurity and begin leading the kind of charmed life that Disney promised me.
I choose to hope.
I choose to hope in so many things that are the very definition of ridiculous and will almost certainly never happen, and the reason that its ok and I continue to hope is because they don’t really matter. You will know, as we all do, that it is so much harder to hold on to, to keep choosing to hope in something that does matter and feels so very far out of our reach.
Yet still, we must choose to hope. It’s the last thing that’s holding us.
This evening I was at a church service and the talk was looking at this idea of our lives being built on hope, that the thing that often sets us apart as Christians is our hope in something beyond, our hope in someone greater. We looked at those incredible words of Isaiah 40, promising us that those who wait on and find their hope in the Lord will not grow weary, but rise on wings like eagles.
And it was almost like God poked a finger on my heart and said “Right there, that’s what we need to talk about”, in that moment I realised I had lost hold of hope in a couple of major areas. I’d stopped choosing to hope.
Those of you who have been reading these blogs for a while will know that a couple of years ago things went a bit, for want of a better word, tits up, workwise. The things I’d hoped for not only didn’t come to fruition, but felt like they actually were ripped from my grasp. It steadily got harder and harder to hold on to what was becoming a very slender thread of hope.
It wasn’t like the Hogwarts letter, the choice to hope that there really was going to be the right job for me one day; that God was continuing to call me to ministry; that I wasn’t really as crap as all the failed applications were telling me I was…really… bloody…mattered.
And it hurt. Every time I chose to hope, only to get clobbered a little bit more the distance between what I was desperately trying to believe from God’s word and what my lived experience was teaching me got bigger and bigger. To the point at which I find myself today. Things did work out, I took the windy road round but I now work in a place where I am happy, fulfilled and am able to continually work out and grow into this call to ministry. But that gap in my hope remains.
I’m at the stage where I am now starting to ask what next, this job has been wonderfully healing but unfortunately can’t last forever, and I am being called and nudged ever onward. The next few steps in the potential journey are big and seem really scary. And it’s like a spotlight has suddenly been shone on that gaping hole in my hope.
I believe in those words of Isaiah 40, I believe that when we build our hope on God we need only rest in him. But…
I can’t get clobbered again and so my hope for my professional life, for my calling, at this present moment in time only extends so far. Like when you’ve badly bruised yourself and hold the afflicted area really gingerly, my professional hope feels like it has been badly bruised so I can’t be as exuberant with it as I wish I could be; I’m having to hold it pretty carefully.
But still, as small and tattered and bruised as that hope feels, I must choose it. It’s the last thing that’s holding me.
There are so many situations in people’s lives where what we are told in God’s word and what this broken, fallen world seems to teach us jar, and can cause huge voids in our hope. Prolonged singleness, chronic illness and pain, remaining childless, broken relationships, unemployment to name just a few.
The truth of Isaiah 40 remains though. If we loose hope, if we stop making that daily choice to hope then we will exhaust ourselves. Our strength only goes so far and in the face of those situations where it is hardest to hope, we need the infinite strength of someone who doesn’t tire, whose hope can’t run dry.
I’m trusting that it doesn’t matter if the hope you have for a certain situation seems tiny, dented and fragile; that what matters is that choice to hope regardless of what the world and your lived experience may be shouting at you.
As I look ahead to the possibilities of the coming years, that tiny, terrified hope flutters in my chest, reminding me of all that has been and all that could go wrong.
But I believe that every day we choose to hope for those very situations where it feels hardest and most dangerous, those flutters will become stronger and our hope will grow. That one day we will realise that perhaps it doesn’t matter that hope is the only or last thing that is holding us, because it is in fact just enough.
So today, as I pray for an increase of my own hope, I pray also for those of us who have those tender places where our hope is held most gingerly. For those situations where the world is shouting at us to give up hope. I pray that we would instead choose to listen to the whisper of hope, that we would find rest in God in situations that feel exhausting and that one day we would learn to soar on wings like eagles.