On Hope

I have this rather vexed relationship with hope. I’m the kid who always wished on falling stars, who screwed his eyes up tight on birthdays thinking that might help the wishes to come true. The one who pulled up dandelions at every chance I got and took the deepest breath I could so I might blow off every seed and see what I most hope for come true. I aspire.

The Latin has this just right: ad + spiro, spirare, to pant after, draw a deep breath till my heart leaps up inside me, almost breaks with all I hope for here.

How can I help but hope? I am, after all these years, a believer. I believe. I believe in resurrection, in mercies new with each sunrise and with it some new shiny-wrapped attempt at grace to try again.

I believe that all my students will do all their reading, dictionary close at hand. And that it will improve them and that they will come with questions and enthusiasm. That they will not cheat.

No matter how the day grows long into the night and finds me with too much still left to do, morning by morning I wake up, prepared to start again, provided I can get a cup of coffee and a good hot shower.

Instant hope–just add hot water!

But don’t, too hastily at least, color me Mr. Sunny Starry-eyed. For far too long it seems my hopes have let me down and likely will do so again, and that right soon. Perhaps the perfect metaphor for me is wishing on a falling star–calling to mind those things I do not see but want to, and then throwing them high skyward just as if it really does mean something, as if the wish I make is on some star that offers both light and heat, and not just on some dying hunk of rock that falls across this dark night sky.

I think perhaps it vexes me, this hope, for like as not you’ll hear me any given disappointing day doubtfully muttering some scripture that I cannot quite believe just then, as hopes fall down again.

Love never ends” the Scriptures say, and neither faith and hope, one might assume. But listen to the whisper underneath my breath and you might hear me say, “Oh yeah? Just watch, and wait a while. You’ll see!”

I’m usually not a pessimist. And as Michael Wilson says, “There’s always tomorrow. There really is, and it can be so good.” Especially when you add hot water. Still, you know, it can grow grim out there sometimes and when hope shrinks into short supply.

Recently I realized that hopes perhaps fall down because we’ve hung them on entirely mistaken sorts of things. St. James guides us quite well here when he warns us that we don’t get what we ask for when our motives are all wrong, when we have made ourselves the center of our hopes.

So maybe I should turn my hopes all outward, upward even. Perhaps the point of hoping is the firm, growing assurance that someday all these things are bound by God to all come true and in ways better by far than we’d have conjured up our own half-hearted selves.

The Psalms chronicle often all this wavering between the deep, abiding hope in God and great despair where what we dread the most surrounds us, jeering all the while. But still God builds a fortress round our failed hopes and each other part of us that comes so often crashing down.

And maybe all I need today is one quick chuck under the chin to show me something higher than these pieces on the floor. Maybe I have abused hope, maybe I’ve tried to make it bend to my own will in ways I can’t yet see will prove disastrous for me.

So I shall still pull the milkweeds, make a wish, and send the weed-seeds flying, trusting even what I wish for God will change into those things I truly need.

And I’ll rise in the morning hoping steadfast love has risen long before me, and that God himself will guide me through my day. And though my flesh, and faith, and hope, and love may seem betrayers, I will hope once more even today that He has not yet finished as He’s making all things new.

And still there is that Great and Glorious Day approaching, and, please God, when it comes I’ll shout for joy to be made like Him and I’ll find fruition that I cannot see today. And so let’s comfort one another with these words, that we will always be with Him there in that place where hope, all hope we’ve ever had, transforms us and it all comes true.

Amen?

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