“Hope is a thing with feathers,” said Emily Dickinson, and well, quite recently, mine took flight, at least until this January when Hope rang in with the New Year.
So, there’s the three Christian virtues: Faith, Hope, and Love. God taught me a lot about Faith and Love in the last two years, but more particularly, in the last six months. The lessons were hard, but, I’m pleased to say, I think they’re sticking. Hope, however, took awhile to catch up to her virtuous sisters.
See, here’s the thing about Hope. She’s often closely followed by her darker brother, Despair. He’s kind of a monster. He can swallow you whole and leave nothing in his wake. Nothing. And there’s nothing worse, than nothing. In my life, I built a lot of my Hope on things or people who can easily be taken. Despair didn’t have to wait long to claim me in those circumstances. I was easy prey for the diabolical killer of all things good. I was, in every sense of the word, the Hopeless Romantic, dying a thousand sleepless dreamless deaths.
But, somewhere in October, when I began to realize why Hope kept failing me, I started a rather prolific search in the Scriptures to discover what I truly can hope in. The answer, much to my chagrin, was honestly not a whole lot brighter: Death. Yup, but not Death as in the final state. Death as in Glory, Jesus, heaven, paradise, redemption. Now, this is all well and good, but the problem is, it just made me long for Death in a way that I used to long for Hope. If nothing good on this earth was left to dream for, because dreams turned to ash, then heck, I might as well just begin asking for Death. I followed along with John in Revelations and prayed, “Amen, come quickly Lord Jesus”… At least, just for me. A bit morbid, yes. But, you see, I suffer from this condition called “Awfulizing.”
Take any normal situation, a speeding ticket on the way home, a broken kitchen appliance, a long to do list, a failed relationship, a broken heart, a… I could go on. But, take any one of those very human, very average circumstances, and exaggerate them to their nth worse degree. That’s awfulizing. That’s me. Or, at least it was me until January.
And then I had my Chateau D’If night, and God freed me of all my old awfulizings, and in some mystical fashion, I began to Hope again. I guess, in short, I began to dream again. There were things I wanted, and I said goodbye to them in October, November, and December. I mourned them, gave them up, and resigned myself to a life without them. But, life without dreams is just plain sad, and I was sick of sadness. I was sick of hopelessness. I didn’t want to be the Hopeless Romantic. The phrase doesn’t really even make sense. Romanticism, as a movement, was all about hope and a rosy-colored perspective, and seeing the good, beauty, and truth in the world. I wanted that again. I wanted to start afresh. Interestingly, and little to my knowledge, I was recently informed that Hope is the word that pops up most often on my blog. So, it would seem that while I gave up every semblance of it, Hope did not give up on me. It kept resurfacing. I began, in time, once I realized the awfulizing had to go, to dream again.
I knew Jesus was my ultimate Hope, and I knew He would take me to glory again, but I began to want to experience the joy that comes from the good things He gives us here too, the reasons why we still exist on this earth, and the small little Hopes that come from dreaming, as humans are wired to do.
This past weekend, I attended a conference called Storyline. The focus of the conference, hosted by Donald Miller and some of his buddies who are living awesome “stories,” was to consider how all of us can be characters whose lives tell great stories. One of the qualities of a great character is a character who has absurd Hope. Now, I’ll be honest. This frightens me. Like, it seems as though the pendulum is just swinging all the way over from awfulizing to absurdity. Both are extremes. And aren’t extremes typically bad? Isn’t everything ok, in moderation? What if I hope absurdly for things again and then they don’t happen? This is all quite possible. And I am earnestly trying to find some middle ground between awfulizing and absurdity.
But, I guess what I’ve decided, is that if I have to err on one side or the other, let me err on the side of Absurd Hope, not Awful. And if she disappoints me, let me remember Faith, who is the Sister that assures me of things Hoped for and convicts me of things not seen. And in those moments when even Faith seems to drop off, let Love come take me and remind me that she bears all things, believes all things, Hopes all things, endures all things. I suppose a chord of three is not easily broken, right?
And so, in lieu of ditching my old Awfulizing, and picking up my new Absurdly Hoping, in conjunction with my attempts to tell a great story by being a great character, here are some tangible things (in no uncertain order) I’d like to dare to still Hope for, knowing already that Jesus is my Hope of Glory:
1.) Work on social justice projects
2.) Get married and have beautiful babies
3.) Get my phD in English – hopefully to help with #1
4.) Teach in Africa again (in some capacity)
5.) Write and publish a book
6.) Travel the world (Europe especially)
7.) Live in San Diego and New York
And because Hope tends to be rather flighty, I’ll make number 8.) this: Get my second tattoo, something to make it permanent, you know, really stick this time.
I think you know what it’ll be.