Tuesday, June 2

The Problem of Hope

We sit together, you and me, at the finishing edge of spring.  Together we are dangling our feet over the bank that slips us into summer – that time of the year which, at least for me, symbolizes freedom. There’s a longing right now, call it Spring Fever, to move into “what’s next,” and leave “what was” behind, to jump in with both feet and land in a cool pool of revel and romp.  But we can’t rush, and so I sit and long and wonder over all the pleasures to come.

I see summer as a gift-giver.  She’s a generous bestower who has planned these next full months with warm surprises. It feels like she has saved and secretly squandered some of the better parts of the year so they can be shared now. With a little extra grace, a little extra time, and a little extra energy, summer brightly invites me to live out hope.

Hope is the expectation of a future good.  But there have been times in my life when I have equated that good with a certain thing.  I have hoped for the right job, the right counselor, the right trip, the right schedule.  I have hoped for a mentor, for friends, for my children to make sound choices, and for my husband’s occupation to satisfy.

I have hoped for a world of things and as I’ve awaited them, I’ve imagined the Giver of all good things working hard behind the scenes, like a basket weaver making a vessel big enough to hold all the final answers to my questions. But each time I received that gift basket, the one that I thought resolved all my problems, I was filled, not with satisfaction, but unrest.

It’s been my continual hope that God was working toward my best end.  And in that misplaced way of hope only lay disappointment.  What I found, when I finally received that thing I hoped for, was that it was never fully satisfying.

That job that seemed just right was a place of emptiness and duplicity. That friend that seemed to want to help walked away. That trip happened and then ended. That dream curriculum was too complicated to use. That schedule made us crazy. When I put my hope in things I found the things lacking.

Hoping in things makes me a slave to that thing and when it fails me, my hope fails with it. But hoping in Christ gives me freedom. These days, my hopes are focused on wanting him to bring about his best end. I hope for the redemption of all things, his creation, his people, his Church, which includes my children, our impact and our attitudes. 

He can work all things together for his good purposes. This inevitably elevates my own in ways I never could have hoped for. Things end and decay and show themselves to be imperfect, but God is consistency, love, justice and peace.

I don’t hope for the next 'thing' anymore.  I reach for new opportunities, but what I hope to grab onto is christlikeness.  I hope that today is brighter than yesterday because God is in it and in me. 

C.S. Lewis says that hope is a “continual looking forward to the eternal world.”  Hope is not a job, nor is it that perfect house, that baby, that achievement. It is the creation of Christ being made complete.  This is true freedom no matter what the season is.

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be blessed:
The soul, uneasy and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
-- Alexander Pope