hope

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Almost asleep on the most comfy couch in the world and the conversation turns to the Middle East. It interests me in that far off way that almost breaks through the haze and makes me giggle a bit thinking about Nate Rogers and how strongly he feels about this. How I want to feel that strongly about things. It’s real conversation, and when we usually just pile on Dr. Carter and the mess this class is making of everything I want to listen to this. 

Suddenly we’re there on the couch talking about Jesus. My head is clearing a bit, registering the fact that it’s been awhile since this conversation occurred somewhere other than the bridge in Waco or Common Grounds or the floor of my old living room. The canned phrases we fought so hard for bubble up inside of me, but they feel oddly forced, here in this room. Here in this place in which God and I are fighting. Not against each other, for each other. Him fighting for me using the people who love me and me fighting for Him with the almost burned out candles on my nightstand, an already-battered prayer book, and a thousand text messages. I can’t say the things that make it seem easy.

“Do you ever feel like Jesus or God or whatever…Like it’s true for everyone else, it works for everyone else, but like…not for you?”

This. These are not my words and yet they are my words. They’re the words my heart has been searching for. The words it tried to find years ago, and that it’s looking for again. I’m shocked to hear them so clearly, in a voice that isn’t my own. I’m not entirely sure how I respond at first, I’m assuming I somehow communicate that yes. I feel like that. 

I feel like that in a thousand moments. I feel like the answers I have to give…the ones I’ve read about and talked about and that I honestly believe are true…I feel like they aren’t for me. I live like they aren’t for me. I would tell you, in another time of my life, a thousand beautiful words about God’s love being eternal and outside us and in spite of us and broken things being stamped excellent with ink welled from divine veins. I know the words to say. 

I do not say them. What I say are the words that rush into my heart as the question sits so deeply on me. “It’s not always about believing it’s true. A lot of times I can’t believe it’s true. Satan believes in God.It’s not always about believing. It’s about hoping.”

Crucify me theologically, but those words. I mean them. I still mean them. They are the truest thing I could say to you, to anyone. I fumble a bit, trying to explain what I mean by hoping. Trying to explain that when you really hope, you center your life around this thing. You change. Gravity re-centers. You drift out of the center of the universe and the sudden weightlessness is relief. Utter relief in no longer hoping in yourself. (I’m nowhere near that articulate out loud. Out loud I am rambling). 

What I’m trying to explain is that some mornings you wake up and swear at your alarm clock and remember the important thing you forgot to do yesterday and you don’t have clean scrubs and Oklahoma City feels like the loneliest place in the world. You read a blog by a friend who is hurting, and it hurts you because you have zero left to give. You have a day that’s just brutal, and all you want to do is sleep. All you want to do is swear at the pissy person who hurts your feelings and not return the angry text and put off being there for the friend who needs you and blow off family time because nothing seems to help anyway. That’s the only thing you are capable of wanting. And in that moment God is hard to believe. Not because He is less real, but because it all seems random and painful and like the world has exploded into a thousand disjointed pieces. “Things fall apart, the center cannot hold”. 

In that moment you remember the voice of Jesus telling you to love your enemies and to invest in your neighbors and to rejoice and to hope. And in that moment it seems like the second most impossible thing. But the most impossible thing…the most impossible is staring into this suddenly void universe and believing that you are your best hope. That is too much. The universe is void and dark if you are the best you have. 

This is where faith becomes hope and you find a point of light in the fogginess. “inwardly we are being made new”. That Jesus loved the wreck you are. That He died to redeem it. That the way He asked you to live is somehow better (and at any rate can’t be worse) than the things you are chasing. And even when you can’t believe it in a way that grounds you…you can hope in it. You can choose to walk through the motions of the life you were called to, void as they seem. 

God is there. He loves you there. He is glorified in even that crooked moment. 

 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

You never see it. A lot of days the confidence and the assurance are heavy on your shoulders. But CS Lewis said it best (what else is new)

“Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that in that case the made up things seem a great deal more important than the “real” ones (of yours). (In that case) I am going to stand by the made up world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there is no Aslan to lead it. I am going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there is no Narnia.”

The solidness? It comes back. When you choose to trust in the God you can’t see, when you read His words even when they are thick in your throat, when you hope against everything because…because there’s nothing else worth hoping in…I believe God meets you. The plan He laid out so long ago will be solid again. 

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dreamed.
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
    our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
    and we are filled with joy.

4 Restore our fortunes, Lord,
    like streams in the Negev.
5 Those who sow with tears
    will reap with songs of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
    carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
    carrying sheaves with them.

 He died to make this true. For me. I’m not the sum of God’s story (and that’s relieving) but I am a part of it. That’s what I would say—it may not feel like it, but it was always for you.

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