21 December 2010

This Marathon of Hope

If you are quiet enough in your kitchen, you will hear a noise. It is a continuous sound, a long, droning noise with no particular beginning or ending. It is the same flat noise, and it goes on and on and on, hour after hour, day after day, making that sound, mostly unnoticed, there in the corner of your kitchen. It’s the buzzing of your refrigerator. We forget that it’s there but it just drones on in our house. If we unplugged it and shut off the buzz we’d probably be shocked at how loud it is. This is very much like the feeling of hopelessness that sometimes settles on our lives and goes unnoticed. Usually because of past expectations not being met or disappointment with circumstances a buzz of pessimism can begin to drone in our life.

Hopelessness seems to be all around us lately. Whether it’s the economy, a cruddy church experience, failed promises or family brokenness there seems to be plenty of fodder for feeling a measure of despair. Cynicism is extremely popular right now. “Whatever it is, it will let you down. Whatever you do, don’t get your hopes up. Whatever you think it is, it will burn you, just give it time.” This is the sound that often goes unnoticed and starts to drone in our life and its name is hopelessness.

One thing I’m learning is what hope is not. Just the other day I noticed my 6 year old son pouting and sporting a “cranky face” as we call it in our house. I asked him why he was so sad. He said quite boldly “I didn’t get what I want and I’m only happy when I get what I want”. That’s quite the statement from a 6 year old but I wonder how often as adults we act the same way. If our sense of hope is dependent on the circumstances we are in then we will be emotionally tossed to-and-fro by what comes our way.

Romans 5 says “since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And true hope does not disappoint, because God love us and the Holy Spirit is our help."

This scripture speaks in the front end about the intentional treasuring of what I have and who I am. “I have peace with God” which I translate as “I now have belonging with God”. That is where my identify lies, not in accomplishments, not in my goals being scored, not in how people perceive me and not in my personal dreams being fulfilled. The second part speaks of the equation of hope. Hope is the finish line after pain, emotional struggle, continued movement forward and embracing the surgery on your inner life. This hope tastes much different and it seemingly comes late in the marathon of suffering, determination and character development. The third part declares an intimate truth that needs to be the nourishment for any Kingdom runner “I am loved by God and he is striving (the Holy Spirit) with me as I go through these hope stages."

Hope really is a choice. It’s easier for us to take on the spirit of a 6 year old and take our frustrations out on those around us, blame someone, claim life’s unfair, and indulge in ourselves even more. That inner voice may say "give up, move on, life sucks" but hope that does not disappoint whispers, "keep moving, stay focused, God is with you.” I’m learning that I can’t let the drone of hopelessness settle into my life because some things didn’t happen for me when I expected. My good buddy Bono (I wish) once said in an interview "this world is looking for a little bit of hope -- not the wispy stuff, but the battle-hardened hope, forged in the grim, with a purposeful spirit."

I need to choose to embrace the marathon of Hope. Hope is serious work. A great mentor in my life recently admonished me with this phrase “cynicism poisons the soul but hope gets the heart beating again.” As I round the bend of this track in 2011 I’m not sure where I am in the process of hope. I do believe the dream God has birthed in my soul will bloom. But God is more passionate about the process of hope then He is about the speed.

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