“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.” – Barbara Kingsolver
If I had to sum up Hope's greatest lesson from this past year, it would be this: hope is not attached to outcome. The end of 2012 didn't look so different from its beginning. None of the Big Dreams I hoped for came into fruition and as I write this, I am absolutely accepting of this sameness.
(Tomorrow may be a different matter but that is tomorrow.)
At the same time, 2012 brought changes. I now write for A Deeper Family and Prodigal Magazine, neither of which I foresaw coming. I have a writing project in the works that is beyond anything I asked or imagined. I traveled to new places. I witnessed a dear friend's wedding. I mourn the death of my aunt. Friendships deepened and strengthened, one ended altogether. The list goes on.
I can't make sense of the blessings that fell into my lap and the others for which I still long. I don't understand the losses my family has faced the last several years. Life seems like such a crapshoot at times.
Where is hope? I've asked this over and over again. It's comforting to hope for or in something. Yet it is undeniably risky. We all know what it's like to be let down not so gently and for dreams to be dashed. Something inside spurs me on toward hope. Even this year.
I've puzzled over the Why of hoping, especially this past month. Why do I feel compelled to hope onward, in spite of the evidence? What am I even hoping in? If hope isn't attached to outcome, what do I hope in?
Of course, the good Christian answer would be our hope is in God. And yes, that's all well and true. But I need more than that. I need the tangibles, especially on those dark nights of the soul.
Where can I see the measure of hope in my life?
A couple of years back, an online art course directed us to create a Mission Statement for Life. I came up with this: "To glorify God by creating, counseling those who are hurting, and hosting gatherings to bring joy and foster deeper connection in my community." The three components touch on my strengths and passions. These things will always be a part of my life, in varying degrees. So is this my hope, that God will use me in these ways?
This Helen Keller quote keeps coming to mind instead: "I long to do great and noble things but it is my destiny to do small things in a great and noble way." Helen Keller, of all people. Whether or not the world ever knows our name, we make a difference in the lives we touch. What a legacy to bear.
I consider my choice to revel in the Now. This bursts with hope. I confidently anticipate the best in my days. I make the most of whatever season I'm in. I acknowledge hardship, I seek silver linings, I allow myself to feel what I must feel. I know difficulty will not last forever, nor will mountaintop highs so I focus on the moment at hand. I soak life up. I hope.
I still dream but I'm going beyond that. I see how those things point me back toward God. This then is my hope: that daily I will become more like the woman He created me to be.
This is measurable. I should not be the same person I was a year ago- and I'm not. Thanks be to God.
Hope will always be both/and to me. It is the stuff of Big Dreams and Character Shaping. It is the knowledge that there is more than this world and that God is at work. It is the anticipation of what's to come and the knowledge that what is is enough. It is the awareness life could change at any moment, for better or worse- and we always hope for the better.
I wish I could snap my fingers and imbue these lessons down deep so I don't have to review them so frequently. But hope takes work. I wouldn't learn it any other way.
Perhaps, if I may be bold, my hard-won hopefulness will inspire others to hope. Either way, Hope has done its work in me. And I am better for it.