Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Crisis of Hope

At first glance, it’s a great word.  Hope.  At hearing the word, my mind is flooded with pictures of sunrises, reunions between loved ones, and relief from the worries of the world.  We’re told to possess it, that it conquers all, and that it endures forever.  After bad news from the doctor, the door slam behind the rebellious teenager, or desperate heartache due to unrequited love, this is where we should turn… to hope.  Hope that God is big enough, is good enough, and that he cares enough to make the pain go away.  I assume that’s where the theology goes bad…

When the crisis, heartache and despair are at their climax, hope often feels like a philosophical raft to which we must choose to cling.  It allows us to gain periods of rest and belief that life may not always feel like this.  Although grateful for the raft, it does continue to move us forward on our journey.  Intrinsically, I know that this is a good thing, yet I wasn’t prepared for crisis of heart that would come from the choice to hope.   

“Here a great number of disabled people used to lie – the blind, the lame, and the paralyzed.  One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”  Jn 5:36

It strikes me that Jesus didn’t ask the man if he knew who Jesus was…. or if he believed… or had enough faith…  He simply asked the man if he had hope.  He asked the man if he wanted to grab on to the proverbial raft or if he would rather choose to stay where he was.  Although the answer to the question seems to be an obvious “yes” (as it is if I am asked if I want to hope), Jesus clearly thought that the question was relevant.  Hope, although appealing initially, brings with it the danger of the unknown.  What if things do change… what may my life be like… what may be required of me…  OR,  what if I start to believe that life could be different… and my heart starts to care again…to soften… which leaves me feeling at much greater risk for an even deeper level of hurt.  So herein lies the crisis.  Is it worth the risk that comes with the territory to have hope? 

I’m acutely aware that in order to become the woman God has created me to be, to serve him well, to love well, to serve the kingdom, I should choose to take hold of the raft of hope.  I don’t know where it may take me, yet I know that there will be movement as a result.  Even if my situation doesn’t change, the decision to hope will doubtlessly change me.  As I reach out,  I feel a curious mix of anticipation, desire, fear, a hint of optimism, a compulsion to hang on to the comfort of the known.   It would be a much easier process if I could hold my breath, jump deep into the icy waters of the unknown, grab hold of the raft, and be done once and for all.  Unfortunately, it is a day by day, hour by hour process.  I reach out, begin to hope, then quickly retreat out of self protection.  Therein lies the inevitable crisis.... 

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