The Weakest Reed

He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle.

When you’re afraid to hope…

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Sometimes, mostly when we’re younger, Hope is an animal of mythical proportions, comprised of features that would not dare, on this planet, to gather together on any single animal that grazes or soars or swims.  We like to hitch ourselves to those crazy creatures on occasion and take wild rides over the Milky Way and around our dreams.  Often, as we grow older, we might still use the word “hope” but it no longer is a creature vibrant and active in our life.  It becomes nothing more than a word that adds itself, flimsy and feeble, into a phrase that we use when don’t know how to do anything else.  I hope you feel better.  I hope she gets what she needed.  I hope the war ends soon.  Hope becomes a weak cover for our powerlessness.

What would happen if I went out one night and rounded up my old hopes again?  If I tip-toed into the field where I’ve put them out to pasture and whistled for them, would they still come to me when I called?  Would they even recognize me in my own soft and domesticated middle-aged body?  Could I hitch myself to them again and would we be able to fly under the weight of my mortgage and my responsibilities and obligations and all the other baggage that comes with me now?

For some of us, a wild hope has become an unwelcome hope. We wouldn’t want to be accused of failing to tame those crazy things to accommodate the homes and communities and families and churches where we make our lives now.  Rather than allow them to run through our imaginations, feathers and scales and horns and wings making a horrible mess, we force them to sit nicely until they grow soft and domesticated like petting zoo creatures willing to politely nibble on treats offered by nice, suburban children.  Polite hopes are the kinds I’m supposed to keep at this stage of my life because the wilder ones are unbecoming a woman my age.  Better we introduce those to our children who can keep them in a more suitable habitat, at their ballet studio or circus class or soccer field.

When other mothers and I talk about their hopes, there’s almost always a nice, long beat.  I’d call it a pregnant pause, but it’s nothing nearly as fertile as that.  It’s more like the bubble you feel in your memory when something that seems important has temporarily resisted recall.  And then when a response does come, usually haltingly, it’s almost always linked very firmly to the phrase “my children.”  I think it is because we worry that if we have a hope for something separate from them, then it might mean that we have to be separated from them.

What if we do have a hope that doesn’t seem to fit very well into our lives? Our social circles? Our budget? Our schedule?  If we don’t see a practical way for our hope to come to fruition, should we let it go?  Over the last few years, it’s become more and more painful to hold onto  hopes  that seem incompatible with the life I am currently living.  How can I justify the risk of keeping those wild things if they only serve of reminders of more than this when I’m trying so hard to be content with just this.  If I have to choose between hope and contentment, contentment usually seems the safer of the two options.  But is there a place where both can dwell together?

There’s this that verse starts out Hebrews 11:

Usually when I read that verse I see it as a definition for faith.  It tells us what faith is and of course that is important to understand because without faith it is impossible to please God.  Recently, reading this verse I saw something different though.   I realized that without hope there is no faith!   If faith is the substance of things hoped for, then without hope we have nothing around which to form that faith substance.

In Psalm 33 it says that the eyes of the Lord are on those whose hope is in His steadfast love. He’s looking out for the Hopers! It pleases Him when we put our hope in His steadfast love that, we are told in another verse, never ceases and in His mercies that never come to an end; the ones that are new every morning!

This “every morning” part in particular is so encouraging to me.  Usually I can manage to eek up some hope for heaven and all the promises related to eternity with Jesus.  Heaven is surely Hope’s ultimate natural habitat.  But some seasons (pretty much literally the entire season of winter) it’s hard for me to allow myself to conjure up much hope for mornings in this broken and hurting place.  But the hope we have in God is not a resigning hope.  It is an active hope; one which we can wake up and expectantly seek out every morning of our lives.  Scripture tells us that His goodness and lovingkindness follows us all the days of our life, not just when we get to heaven.  We can and should hope to see God’s goodness in the land of the living!

It’s not that every dream I have ever had will be fulfilled, but to be afraid to hope is to neglect to grasp the fullness of who He is to us and how He is for us.  

To hope is not merely to wish. To hope is to come to know the One who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or imagine.  It is to have faith- the substance of things hoped for- in Him who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

For us who know Jesus, Hope is more than a mythological creature to which we hitch ourselves on occasion and take wild rides over the Milky Way and around our dreams.  Hope is not something that we can only fully grasp when we get to heaven. Ours is a living hope! Our hope is a person who has loved us with an everlasting love and who draws us to Him with unfailing kindness.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

5 Comments

  1. You are such an amazingly gifted writer, Rachel! Beautiful piece!

  2. This is one of my favorites Rachel. From the heart and well written.

  3. This is so encouraging, Rachel. Thank you!

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