Having been blessed all my life with largely irrepressible hope, I am always glad to see it when others maintain optimism too, even in the face of difficulties and all the uncertainties of our future.
The March 2014 issue of The Sun carries an interview with author/activist Barbara Kingsolver that was one of the most worthwhile interviews I’ve read in a while. I recently read Kingsolver’s latest book, Flight Behavior, which tells a good story while at the same time letting readers see how climate destabilization is affecting the world. So, I was expecting some eyes-open comments in the interview about the state of the natural world. The interviewer puts it on the line: “…does it ever become irresponsible or painful to speak of hope?”
Kingsolver’s reply: “It’s never irresponsible to speak of hope. It’s irresponsible to give up.” Earlier in the article she admits, “I’m not always optimistic about the fate of the world—especially the natural world—but I’m still hopeful, because hope is a choice you get to renew.”
In my worldview, hope is a choice we not only get to renew; it’s the one choice we must renew on a daily basis.
One of the goals of everyday spirituality is figuring out how to live with grace, courage, and hope—no matter what life is handing you at the moment, even in the face of the most difficult situations. Fortunate are the people who have managed to identify for themselves the elements or thought patterns by which they can remain positive and strong.
The book Not Even My Name by Thea Halo offers this kind of perspective. For more than its first half, the book is often not an easy read because of the appalling, sometimes even atrocious, circumstances of the life of a young Greek girl named Themía. Most of her family members are annihilated, and the reader often wonders how she herself can survive.
But at the end of the book, when she has nothing from her original life except scars—not even her name—she is able to tell her daughter: “even in my darkest hours, I need only watch a flower tilt its lovely face to drink the rain, or hear my children laughing, to know that life is good. Breath is God’s gift. Life is our reward. The rest is up to us.”
This true story, which is not intended to be a story about spirituality, has a lot to teach about enduring faith.
Some people don’t particularly like the book of Romans, but this morning I came across something there that has stayed in my head ever since. It was Romans 15:4 in the Amplified Bible and it goes like this:
“For whatever was thus written in former days was written for our instruction, that by [our steadfast and patient] endurance and the encouragement [drawn] from the Scriptures we might hold fast to and cherish hope.”
Unless I am misreading that, Paul is saying that the entire early Bible was written to instruct us, yes, but more to encourage us to hold onto hope. The bottom line is to ensure that we stay in hope.
Why would hope be so important?
We often come across people who have been so beaten up by life that they have become bitter, negative, cynical, angry. Maybe the best word to describe them is “unhopeful.” They are people who have lost hope for a better outcome, for life to be at least somewhat as they envisioned it.
How can you ensure that you don’t become one of those who have lost their hope?
Advent is a lot like awakening, with its sense of emergence and dawn, and the materialization of the good that we hope for. I have to admit that the seasons, both those of the calendar and those of the Church, often run right by me, and I don’t look up until they are about over. But Advent is different and I think it’s because of the promise of awakening – specifically, awakening to hope.
Exactly what we are awakening to, in this season of Advent, is really up to us. We can choose how we want to receive, what we want to emerge in our lives. As with many things, how much we get out of the season depends on how much we put into it. Perhaps the best approach is to think deeply about who we want to be, what we want to pull up from our spirits, how we would create the world that works for all of us.
Eckhart Tolle said, “There’s something in everybody that longs for that awakening to be more true to yourself.” More true to yourself is a euphemism for living from our spirits to be the people we most want to be.
Going the next step into the actual awakening is a process that grows naturally out of regular spiritual practices. The list of practices is endless, and many spiritual practices have already been discussed in this blog. Choose two or three that work for you and practice them daily.
Psalm 17:15 “And I – in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.”
Recently on Twitter a great post by @Kekris provided me with a perspective on peace and patience that I’ve been thinking about ever since and want to share. This was her tweet, a quote from Adel Bestavros:
“Patience with others is Love, Patience with self is Hope, Patience with God is Faith.”
When I can’t always feel love toward other people, I can still (nearly always) muster patience toward them, and it gives me peace to know that that is a step toward loving them. It makes me more willing to try.
Patience with myself – I’d always perceived patience with myself more as acceding to a tendency to procrastination, and never viewed it as something positive. Maybe if I can see it as Hope, I can loosen that particular fight.
And patience with God reminds me of my previous post on “waiting for God,” which must be about the same thing because both suggest the quiet assurance (read: Faith) that God will come through, even if it takes a while.
How do you see these definitions of patience in your own life?