I've been thinking a lot about hope today--what it is, what it means, if it is time-bound, and how it can shape our thoughts.
This started when I read a FB post from a friend, a wonderful writer and retreat leader. This election has affected her profoundly (as it has so many of us), bringing her down and raising the worst fears about our country lurching towards fascism. I share these fears. This election is a complete catastrophe, a world-sized truck accident, and I don't know how we are going to manage both our feelings about it and the consequences which shall ensue.
My friend's posted that she wished she could share the hope some of her friends had. I answered, "Maybe it's catching?" Then I added that I thought hope was significantly different from optimism. Someone--R. Rohr or C.S.Lewis--said it is not given to Christians to be optimistic. We simply cannot be sure that things will turn out the way we want. There are always those lions prowling about the Coliseum
, and things did not end well. But hope is different for me. Here's why:
--Yes, hope is that thing which perches in the tree and sings to depressed, amazing Emily Dickinson. But this is a small image, and it is a thin song.
--My brother, a practicing Buddhist, believes hope is an illusion, that it is time-based--sending us towards the future--when all we have is the Now. I get that and I respect it. But...
--Why is the word "hope" mentioned so many times in the Bible? At least 129 times. (Thanks, Google.) St. Paul writes, "...we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (Romans 5: 3-5) These verses literally saved my life when I was in deep despair. I never rejoice over my sufferings, but I'm down with hope in our hearts. And it is not something I build through my own efforts; it is a gift from God.
--I believe hope is a form of trust, that it is a direction of the heart which connects us to God and to each other. It doesn't say--"Everything will turn out right; God has a plan; and nothing happens by accident." Those statements actually make me want to tear out my miniscule 1" of hair and run screaming down the driveway searching for Death Cap mushrooms. Those are cruel, deceptive statements, as well as bad theology.
--Hope says: "My story is bigger than this story." (That's God speaking about the election; got it from Her mouth to my ear.) We and our miseries, worries, fears, and despair, are held in the lavish, enormous love of God, which is far bigger than anything we could imagine. Evil does not have the last word. Ever. Giuliani, Bannon, Trump, Newt, and all the howling hyenas from "The Lion King" will not have the final word. They can and will make life ENORMOUSLY miserable for the most vulnerable of us. I hate that. But they will not last forever; we will come back; we will revive what can be revived. We will bring water to the thirsty deserts and do whatever we can to contain and limit the damage of this vile presidency.
Of course we should organize, protest, march, fight back, and throw the suckers out as soon as we can. But in the meantime--remember the dratted thing with feathers; hope is alive in our hearts even when things look bleak and impossible.