A Reflection on Hope
I think I am impaired. Hope-impaired. It seems that I have difficulty starting anything that seems impossible. When I can't see the end, when I can't be certain what I begin will see completion, I give up. I don't even try.
Take, for instance, my house. I'll narrow it down to my kitchen. I have small children whom I give much of my time and energy to. So there is little left over at the end of the day. I am also a fairly random person--an artistic type--which becomes extreme with sleep deprivation. What I am trying to say is, my house is a mess about 98% of the time. I don't have a dishwasher and I have five dish-dirtiers and so the dishes tend to pile up. Even if by miracle or an angel, all my dishes get done at once, it doesn't take more than a day or two before I'm back to the piles. More often than not, I'm washing dishes before meals instead of after, just so we can eat! (It seems ridiculous on paper, but true).
So, once my counters disappear, I look at the enemies occupying my territory and put up a white flag. I say, "There's no way I can conquer them in the twenty minutes I have now, no way to reclaim beauty and order in the time I have before baby's nap/school's out/whatever. I'll just leave them for now. I'll do something more rewarding or pressing like getting dressed or playing with my kids or just easier, like checking my email or googling a new chicken recipe. And so, the battle rages on between beauty and chaos and chaos rules and takes more ground.
On those rare days when I start with a clean slate (and those are happy mornings), I can see that ten minutes could do up the breakfast dishes and even a quick sweep. Then when lunch comes along, I can start on time because I don't have to wash anything first or clear the table, and there is less rush to get to school and more time before naps and again, I find myself taking just a little time and voila...beauty and order are back!
But all it takes is one cranky kid or a low-energy day after a bad night and supper dishes get left. And then breakfast and then lunch--and wham! Hopelessness sets in, despair takes over and I think, "Dishes? What's the point? They'll just get dirty again. There's no way I can get through all of them now--or maybe even today---and anyway, who wants to do dishes all day? Aren't there more important things to do?" And so, inaction becomes the order of the day.
This inaction paralyzes my prayer life and Bible reading, too. And my hopes for transformation in my own life, in my loved ones' lives, and in my community. "Ah, what's the use--I'll never see revival happen anyway. Read my Bible? Where would I start? I probably won't get anything out of it anyway. Pray? There are so many things I could be/should be praying for. Where would I begin? My habits are too hard to alter. The problems in my community are too entrenched. There's no use in trying to make change."
I think lack of hope must be one of the most heavy-duty/most-often-used tools in the enemy's tool box...maybe a Sawz-all or cordless drill. Or perhaps it's more like an epidural, numbing us to the pain of our existence, and making it difficult to feel the need to push or the way to push effectively, keeping us laying down and inactive (don't get me wrong--I've had one and consider it a blessing in its proper place). But whatever the comparison, it sucks the life out of us and hinders us from reproducing life.
We need hope to live. It's what makes the difference for people in dire circumstances like torture, isolation, poverty and war. It's what the psalmist clung to when being hotly pursued by those who wanted him dead, and what Israel relied on in captivity. It's also what Paul prayed for the Christians in Rome and my prayer in this new year: "...that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit". (Romans 15:13 NIV).
There's the key. I can't work up hope myself. Maybe some have a greater natural capacity for hope, but God always supercedes the natural with a lavish outpouring of all we need, by his power, from his never-ending resources. He is the only one who knows the end from the beginning. He is the only one who can look at everything going on in this world and not give up. And he has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit to fill us with all that we need for life and living--including hope...for the hope-impaired.
Thanks, God. I'm looking forward to seeing how you supply in 2008.
Happy New Year, everyone!