This is my third run at writing this post. You’ll notice it’s not Christmas Eve now. It’s Boxing Day night.
I want to offer a word of hope. It’s been a hard year to stay hopeful.
We all prefer when things come easily, but hope becomes more important in direct correlation to how hard hope comes for us. When we call it “hope” but we’re pretty sure everything will go our way, that hope doesn’t need reinforcing. That hope doesn’t save our lives. It likely isn’t the biblical concept of hope, either.
I feel like I’ve lost hope in many things this year. Worse, I’ve lost hope in many people. I’m praying God will change these things in my heart–God is big and pretty good at that stuff, so I have not despaired nor counted these as irretrievable losses.
But for now I am here and I’d be lying to you if I told you that I’m starting this coming year as hopeful, personally, as I started last year.*
Yet good things have happened in my 2020. Against the odds, I have made new friends. A few of them I have seen face to face while many more I have yet to meet in person. But the connections are real and for this I am grateful.
In contrast, I will tell you honestly I want to give up on some people and I’m holding out hope for them solely because God commands me to. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Yet I myself have been loved by people who refuse to stop hoping for me. Friends who would not quit on me or stop praying when I said “don’t bother.” Not many, but a few. Enough.
I’m not going to get emotional here (okay, maybe I will; you’re not going to know unless I tell you) but those few people who help me to hope, who carry some of the hope for me when I can’t, who keep me remembering that the world, as expletived up as it is, makes even less sense without me, I have never appreciated those people more than I do right now. I tell them that, freely and frequently. If 2020 has taken a horrible toll on my hope, it has also severely reduced my taking many things–and especially people–for granted.
When life goes smoothly, we don’t have to hope very hard and we can take most of what we have for granted, without pause or second thought. When we’re forced to think about how precious, fleeting, and uncertain our lives are, we take that long, hard look at who–and what–sustains us and gives us reason to stay alive.
God is faithful. I know that intellectually but often it doesn’t feel true. I want things to go better and I want to measure God’s faithfulness based on God’s making certain that I get reasonably close to my preferred outcomes. But then I have to stop and ask, “Do I have what I need?”
Not ‘Is life as I expect or going the way I have worked to make it go?’
“Has God provided as promised and is God still with me?”
When I take things for granted, I get really pissy, especially when I don’t get them. Even when I have much of what I want, I can still get grumpy over small things. I get irritable with God for not providing my preferences. I momentarily forget that what I need and what I want aren’t concentric circles.
I want people to behave differently. I want people to stop being such jerks.** I don’t get to demand that nor act wronged and offended when I don’t get it. Instead, I’m reminded that these are people God loves, people God wants me to love with a love that hopes and endures. Loving them does mean saying “Wrong is right,” or “Jerkiness is cool,” but love hopes all things–including for people who strike me as willfully blind to have their eyes opened and see. The distance between feeling righteously affronted that people won’t behave as I want and holding out hope for their transformation is, literally, the distance between thinking it’s all about me and being focused on another.
God, lead me to pray for people in hope. Give me hope for them, even in my prayers. Forgive me for having taken so much for granted. Thank you for those who have persevered in their love and hope for me. Thank you for friends.
*I’m differentiating between my hopefulness that I have as an individual for people and relationships and my perspective on our broader national situation and politics. That’s a different post.
**I am doing my best to be diplomatic here.