16 January 2012

Blue Collar Hope

Culturally the word Hope has a bright and shiny feeling to it.  It sheens with pictures of the Extreme Makeover bus pulling up or it has feelings of getting a big tax return when you needed it really bad or that feeling of someone you depended on coming through for you in a big way.  I think in some manner we think this is what hope should feel like when we get that one thing we really wanted or thought we needed; it’s utterly surprising and an emotional relief.

We often get hope mixed up with expectations. Expectations are often desires and wants that are bit removed from our gritty participation in them.  We put expectations upon events, relationships and situations.  We have strong emotional ideals that we thrust over the top of circumstances and confuse it with hoping.

But Hope as seen in scripture but more clearly in Jesus is very different. We often portray the resurrection as an explosive miracle that happened to Jesus one morning. But Jesus did not receive a gift that came solely from divine power. No, Jesus earned the right through persevering pain to be exalted as King. Hebrews 2:17 says “he was made to be like them, fully human in every way, he himself suffered when he was tempted, he earned the right to become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God.” The resurrection is more than an event it is a supernatural blueprint for Hope. One of the key take home messages of the resurrection is that Jesus was rewarded for his perseverance and faithfulness in his body. God sees, acknowledges and honors the long, purposeful, faithful, self-sacrificing obedient work that Jesus did on earth (Phil 2:9).

Hope is built and assembled in persevering work and pain.  I call it Blue Collar Hope. Hope comes at great cost.  It requires personal risk and an emotional toll. It calls for deep faithfulness to God in the midst of great doubt and uncertainty.  Hope by nature asks for more time. It stretches from weeks to months to possibly years and challenges our ability to develop a long-suffering character.  I cannot truly hope for something and keep my hands clean.   To receive a hope that will not disappoint I must acquire calluses, bruises and wounds from sustaining a vision.

We often want the freedom to hope for something without experiencing the pain of full-bodied involvement. Because of the long steady work hope requires most slink out and opt for something less. It’s much easier to have expectations than hope.

Blue Collar Hope is a beautiful thing because it means a deep soul-wrenching cost.  It means pacing the floor late at night wondering if you have any faith left but waking up in the morning determined to press on.  It means when others were whining and cynical about the way things were you instead took more responsibility and sacrificed even more.  The Jesus kind of Hope is Blue Collar.

Most people fear the deep disappointment of not apprehending that thing they hoped for.   I've collided with understanding hope through the school of hard knocks. The funny thing I’ve learned is that by the time I’ve gotten to the other side of something I’ve hoped for, because of the process of hope, my character has changed in a way that I’m content with not receiving the whole of what I originally envisioned.  I think this is what Romans 5 is exposing when it says “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

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