I looked down this morning and realized all my hope was pointing outward. I don’t usually pay attention to how the words on my hope rings line up, but I do take notice when they point outward. It reminds me to share. To try to help someone else find the courage to hope. So here’s where I’ll send some hope your way, if perchance you need it tonight.
Let’s begin here: you get to decide what kind of woman or man you are going to be. You can live safe and shut down, or you can live open and brave. But here’s the kicker: both choices carry risk. Don’t think for one hot second that living safe and shut down is risk-free. It is anything but. Sure, being brave means risking rejection, failure, and a wounded or even broken heart. But I have lived shut down and I know firsthand just how hard it is to revive a heart turned to stone. In fact, in Ezekiel God poses the remedy to the heart of stone and it isn’t a bypass. It’s a transplant. “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Eze 36:26) Those brave and broken-hearts? He binds them up. (Isa 61:1) But he does not fool with the stone hearts, other than to pull them from our chests and put something new in their place.
So I choose open and brave. I choose hope. And I dare you to do the same.
Whatever it is that seems hopeless, beyond repair, beyond redemption, beyond resurrection…put a pin in that and pause with me right there for a moment. Look beyond that thing and see Jesus as he watches the rich young ruler walk away, forlorn. Watch as Jesus turns and tells his disciples how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Hear them ask, incredulous: “Then who in the world can be saved?” Listen as Jesus returns his intent reply: “With man, this is impossible. But not with God; all things are possible with God.” Can you see the hope glimmer in Jesus’ eyes as he says this and glances back at his rich young friend once more? To quote John Eldredge, “With a smile and a wink, it’s as if (Jesus) says, ‘He’ll be back.'” I wept to read the story from that perspective, to realize: my Jesus has a heart that hopes. He doesn’t see the lost cause. He “sees the internal revolution already taking place.” (Eldredge) And when it comes to those things we think are hopeless and beyond repair, redemption or resurrection? He doesn’t see trees laid bare for winter. He sees that “wonders are being performed under the surface of things.” (Elisabeth Elliot) And He knows spring is coming.
Hope means knowing spring is coming. Hope means releasing the leaves to fall as autumn’s crisp breeze pulls them from your grasp. Hope means facing the winter and refusing to freeze. Hope means expecting life where yesterday there was only death. Hope means choosing to live in anticipation of the moment when you see your joy doubled. Hope awaits the jubilee – even (or perhaps precisely) when you have no idea how that may look or what form it may take. After all, “hope that is seen is no hope at all.” (Rom 8:24)
Ah, but there’s the rub, isn’t there? We want to see. We want guarantees. Jesus, tell me what it is I’m hoping for here, in the most precise terms possible, then I’m all the way on board. I will be the poster child for hope. I’m just gonna need a few details first. Well now, that’s just silly. You can’t have the plan and the hope. A choice must be made, and I find it is one that God ever so mercifully makes for me. He keeps the plan to himself, and he keeps daring me to hope.
It’s a beautiful tension, especially when the deepest longings of our hearts are involved. We walk what is sometimes a very thin line between hoping for a specific outcome and hoping in God – in His goodness and His love and His plan, no matter what. It is dang hard and some days it feels like I recalibrate my hope every hour on the hour. But to refuse to hope? To cover over those deep longings with pounds of cement and watch as my heart slowly petrifies, inch by stony inch? No thank you. I’ll take the hard work of choosing hope any day. Because as it turns out, hope itself isn’t a work we do. It’s a choice we make. We’re not responsible for conjuring or even sustaining hope. Our only task is to give it a place to light and listen for its song. Emily Dickinson explains this so beautifully, so I believe I will let her take it from here.
Don’t be afraid to hope, dear ones.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers – (314)
by Emily Dickinson
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.