Wednesday, March 13, 2013

on hope

Let’s all raise our glasses to hope, why don’t we? This most unlikely usurper of my heart, stealing the show, slipping in unnoticed, without fanfare, balloon towers, or pinatas swinging from long-limbed trees. It has been quieter than that, like falling asleep in the cool darkness of shade, and waking up with the sun slanting through the leaves, your surroundings ablaze with light.

But wait a second. I don’t want to pretend this is something it isn’t. It is not the end of worry, although that would be nice. It is not the end of fear. I would be lying if I said I was never afraid. I push back against fear daily, minutely. It is not happiness bubbling over at all times, in every circumstance. Oh, I wish it was all smiles, all jumping and leaping and twirling beneath the smooth, blue underside of heaven. Maybe it is supposed to be, maybe it will be one day, but I haven’t arrived at that definition of hope just yet.

Hope is an anchor. It grounds me. I am preserved. But it doesn’t prevent the waves from slamming into this small frame.

What if I rephrase it this way? Hope is in pursuit of me. It is circles and circles of light, and even as I spin out of its orbit, it is behind me again, never tiring of righting me, reminding me, restoring me.

It’s a pesky little word, and some days I shrug it off, I scoff at it, because like I’ve written and thought so many times--hope is for the naive, for the foolish, for those who refuse to face reality with all of its sharp edges and cold, unyielding surfaces.

Hope is not for me. I am too rational for all of this. I’m proud to wear my cynicism like armor, a defense against disappointment. And yes yes, I know what the Word says, that hope does not disappoint, but you know what? I have been disappointed. So there.

It’s childish of me, isn’t it?

Yes, yes, exactly.

And now we’re standing silent and still on a large expanse of land, him and I.  There are no trees, no flowers, no rivers or even mountains in sight. But despite the emptiness, I know the ground beneath my feet is fertile. I bounce on my heels and the soil springs up to meet me. This is not barren desert earth; it is barren fertile earth, poised for the planting.

I turn towards him. “Where do we begin? There is so much. And water? There doesn’t seem to be any water. You know, we cannot live without water.”

His eyes are glittering, but he does not discount me. He looks deeply into me, he takes me seriously, and I love him for it. “It will come.”

We begin to walk, slowly, deliberately; I have no idea where we are headed. It is just acres and acres of empty land all around, no destination in sight. It goes on this way for a while. His hands are clasped behind his back, his neck bent, eyes on the ground. He looks deep in thought, or like he is waiting for something. I see it in the way he occasionally raises his head, scans the horizon, a hint of a smile at the edges of his lips, the angle of his cheekbones.

I touch his shoulder and he stops, turns towards me. “Where are we going?” I ask.

“Towards hope,” he says. “It will meet us soon. I am bringing it closer.”

I open my mouth to ask what he means, close it when the words do not come out, and decide to just keep going. He speaks this way sometimes, in mysteries, and it always unveils itself, without my questioning.

I see her coming before he does, although I’m sure he has been watching her all along. He knows exactly where she is; I just happen to catch a glimpse of her first. She is running towards us. She is a just a little child; she cannot run in a straight line, or at an even speed. Her arms swing at her sides, sometimes it looks as if she will trip over her own  small feet. When he looks up and finally sees her, he grabs my hand and we speed up, his face breaking its repose. Now it is all alight.

It’s my daughter. I recognize her when she is still far off, and I grip his hand tighter.

She is laughing when we are finally face to face. I’m laughing. He is laughing. And the ground here is moist, but I kneel anyway, gather her into my arms. She has rocks in her hands, smooth black rocks, and she is excited as she presses them into my hands.

“Look what I found!”

And immediately, I understand. He looks at me, and it washes over me like the dawn. “She found the water,” I whisper. “She found the water.”

The rocks are cool, still wet, her hands are wet, her curls are wet. There is a river nearby, and she was there, splashing, bringing me proof of an enduring hope; this land will not always be barren. Even the roughest of surfaces can be polished and made new, he seems to say as he takes those rocks in his hands, if only they would let the water rush over them.

She lets me pick her up; I breathe in the scent of cool earth, of clear water and open spaces. Thankfulness is brimming over, because although there is a leaving behind, and a sadness at what has been lost, the restoration of our hope and the promise burgeoning in our hearts is seed sown into fertile soil. We wait. We wait.

The Lord has made proclamation to the ends of the earth:
'Say to daughter Zion,
See, your Savior comes!
See, his reward is with him,
And his recompense accompanies him.'

He is still standing there next to us. Thank you for sovereignty, I whisper. It is a great oak, and we can lie down under its shade. It shelters us, allows us to rest, to let go, to be. We can lean on this, trust in this, even when we do not understand.

He presses the rocks back into my hands, reminds me. He is pleased to tear down my cynicism, my doubt. It is as simple as this, he says to me. Together, we will always find the water.

She squirms from my arms, begins to run, and we chase her down, laughter ringing out to the horizon lines. It resounds. And yes, yes--there is hope.

He felt what the earth may possibly feel, at the moment when it is torn open with the iron, in order that grain may be deposited within it; it feels only the wound. The quiver of the germ and the joy of the fruit only arrive later.
-Victor Hugo, from Les Miserables

Hope is the thing with feathers, 
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all
-Emily Dickinson


  1. Another beautiful written and motivating insight. I love reading all of your posts Erika, because they connect me with Jesus in a way that my own prayer time does not. He is glorified when we share our journeys with each other, it teaches us more about love. You have such a gift for uplifting our spirits through your revelations- and I am so grateful that you choose to share that gift with us..

  2. Such beautiful words Erika. Thank you for writing...and encouraging me to HOPE! :)


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