Oh goodness, what a week! I started school. Three very full classes. Lost of new people. A very packed schedule. And I can honestly say, I loved every minute of it. But, it’s week one. Ask me again during finals week.
Here’s my take away from week one of the Marriage and Family Counseling program at Northwest Nazarene University: The whole program is designed to be practical (which fits well with my calandering, list making mind) and an exercise in exploration and compassion, for myself and others, (which is why I went back to school). I am feeling so grateful to have the chance to soak in all this new information.
But, here we are almost a full month into the 2019. I’m not one for big resolutions. Or, I should say, I’m not one for thinking that January 1 is some magical moment to make a new start. Aren’t we presented with that choice at every turn? But, I do like to choose a word for year. A single word to focus my intentions and look ahead. While I do have some big goals for the year and looking back at all that I accomplished that I never really planned... this word seems appropriate.
And, when I finally settled on this word, I was at Michael’s, and saw this tiny little bracelet. It spells out the word, hope, in morse code. I haven’t taken the bracelet off. It feels like a rubber-band-around-my-wrist-reminder to keep at it. To press forward into healthy things. To dream and plan and lean in even when it feels like some things never change.
This word was not what I planned. Over the holidays, I was contacted by the women’s group at my church to write a spoken word poem to recite during a women’s worship event. As I prayed and journey and had lovely, deep conversations with the women who always speak life into my heart, this is what poured out.
So, I’d like to share this little piece with you:
When Hope is a Four Letter Word
Because it was never the parable of the widow who learned to submit and surrender.
Because it was always the parable of the persistent widow. The one who would not stop asking for the one thing she needed, the one thing she felt she could not live without. The nerve of her. Refusing to take no for an answer - even from Jesus.
I’d like to think this woman and I have a lot in common. I wonder what she felt when she heard the word:
I wonder if it felt like gravel in her sandals, painful and annoying.
Still we keep hoping and walking and clinging to stories like Sarah, Hannah, Rachel, Rebecca, Leigh. Because we must never forget the birth of the nation of Israel started in a barren womb.
When the promise was spoken over each of these women, and it took years to fulfill, what did hope feel like?
Heavy and oppressive?
And month after month, year after year, with no physical change to match... have you felt this way? Oppressed by a hope gone unfulfilled and seemingly ignored by the Creator of the Universe. The one who made the promise in the first place?
I have a large problem with hope.
Most days I wake to the sound of it, clamoring inside my heart, a far off rhythm I can’t quite name. I seem to wear it on my sleeve just waiting for someone to walk by, tell me how foolish all this is and give me permission to finally let this hope go. I keep hoping it’ll be stolen by an unsuspecting pick-pocket. Good riddance.
Other days, I’ve all but forgotten what it is that I am specifically hoping for. Hope becomes a four letter word, because I’m just so angry that I’m still asking God for the one thing I know I’ve been promised - and feel I cannot live without. On those days, all I can say is,
“I hope God keeps his promises.”
Still other days, I find myself in the company of well-meaning confidants who, in an attempt to talk me down from my larger emotions, say unhelpful things like: Maybe you’ve set your expectations too high, or, don’t get your hopes up. Or, that’s not realistic.
I’ll be honest, on my weaker days, I’ve said these things to myself.
But it never helps.
Did you know that hope is actually a four letter word? A verb to be exact. It comes from the archaic words: trust and reliance.
And I have not been able to shake this hope, because I know that I was born out of a miracle.
On the morning of my birth, when my mother, on an exam table, pushed for me - I was already dead.
And in the panic of the next moments, I was rushed to the room next door, my father was shown the waiting room, and my mother was left alone on a table to bleed and catch her breath...
Every year, on my birthday, she recites the prayer/demand she said out loud, for as alone as she seemed on that table, she was not.
She said, “If you are the God everyone says you are, bring my baby back, and I will serve you forever.”
In that instant, there was a small but persistent cry from the room next door and she knew she’d spend the rest of her life keeping that promise.
Look, this was only the first of an uncomfortably large number of times doctors would tell me that my very survival is
And if I was born inside a miraculous and desperate plea, I know there is absolutely nothing I could ask God for that would ever be beyond his infinite reach. I also know that this isn’t only true for me.
Hope anchors us all, this side of heaven.
What I’m learning is this: Hope doesn’t pin us down to make us miserable on purpose. God’s hope is an invitation to a larger, more miraculous story - one of redemption and glory.
Hope was his design for us all along.
And when it feels like there is gravel in our sandals and we can’t possibly take another step - God is with us. And when we cry out in grief and anger and confusion - He is also there. Mourning our loses.
Refilling our cups of hope.
And hoping we will ask him for more.
There you have it. Hope. And just when I thought I had this word sorted out in my heart, I was given a small gift. A mug with the word “hope” scripted across the front.
I am humbled and grateful all the more.
So, here’s to a new year, my friends! One filled with hope. May we keep dreaming and hoping and working and asking for more.
This Is Not the End,