So, how are you with hope these days?
Speaking for myself, if I weren’t a person of faith, I’d probably be a cynic, chuckling away at history’s cyclical dark comedy. There are, after all, so many good, dark chuckles out there. Take the fact that 2011 is the centennial year of humankind’s first successful aerial bombing of itself; and the place we bombed then is the same place we’re bombing now: Libya.
I am first, last, always, a realist; a person who’s interested in considering the world as it actually is. So, if I hadn’t hooked up with God, the great Whatever, I’d be dismissing hopeful people such as myself – all us optimistic souls who believe goodness and kindness are the way to go – as complete doofuses.
Of course, hope is easy, even for cynics, in the spring. Those first brave snowdrops and crocuses poke their cheerful selves up through the snow, followed apace by stout early daffodils, anemones, cherry blossoms and dandelions, and here comes hope, a fleeting expection that both ourselves and our world can do better. After our long winters of personal and global discontent, this blossom-fueled optimism sends us rushing outside to dance in the streets and hug strangers. Hope briefly trumps reason: For those brief shining days, we feel that everything is fundamentally all right, society’s screw-ups are transient; human beings are open-hearted creatures intent on doing right by each other.
I am so right there, dancing and hugging, convinced for a few days or weeks that the world really is being remade into a better version of itself.
But then the blossoms always fall, while the bombings always continue; and I realize that not much – or maybe nothing -- about the world has gotten less screwed-up. Spring’s hope is whipped-cream hope, not meat-and-potatoes hope. Pessimism beckons. If I am to be a year-round hopeful person, rather than a cynical person, I need heartier fare than blossoms.
So what is hope, anyway?
For me, as a person of faith, hope is a cheerful acceptance that I have no control over anything other than my own efforts, combined with a quiet confidence that my life is, and will continue to be, an adventure worth having. No matter what happens to me, I—as a person who lives in companionable partnership with God, the great Whatever —will go on feeling comfortable with who I am in the world as it actually is.
I know from living both on my own and in partnership with God that, as a person of faith, I am kinder, gentler, more useful, much more hopeful person; much better at doing what I can, instead of sitting around moaning that I can’t do all that much. Don’t ask me to explain how or why hanging out with the great Whatever fuels the hope in me. I don’t know and I don’t care; I’m just glad that it does. As Van Morrison put it; it ain’t why, why, why, why, why; it just is.
Hope, as I see it, is both the gift and obligation that comes from choosing to live in partnership with God. You and I cannot make the blossoms last forever, we cannot remake the whole world into a kinder, gentler, less greedy place; but we can change how we, ourselves, deal with others – which as I see it makes us hope on two feet.
The way I see it is: As a person of faith, I become not just a feeler of hope, but a participant in it. You with me on this?
Martha’s note: This is round twelve of Faith Unboxed, an ongoing, civil, respectful conversation about faith I invite you to participate by sharing your own ideas and experiences (either here or on the website), rather than by denigrating the ideas and experiences of others.