The Choice of Hope
Advent season falls upon us as surely as the snow and in celebration of the coming arrival of the Christ child, Mars Hill has begun a series to last throughout the season. The first week’s theme is hope, which has got me thinking.
What if hope isn’t so much a feeling as it is an action and a choice?
CS Lewis is one of my favorite writers (as anyone can tell by reading my blog so far) and in Mere Christianity, he talks about how, in the absence of feeling faith, of feeling like you believe in God’s supreme purpose, that you continue to act as though you do and eventually, your heart will catch up with your hands. This isn’t to encourage false, surface faith, but rather to show that our deepest convictions are not tied to our emotions but to our actions. Some days, I wake up and I don’t see God’s purpose in everything. I don’t want to go to work, I’m frustrated with my lack of direction, or my loneliness is weighing on me to the point where I don’t even want to stir the blankets. But I get up, I keep going, keep struggling towards that sometimes difficult work of putting one foot in front of the other, because I know that even when my puny human brain is unable to grasp His plan, I know that there is one.
God does not exist because I believe in Him or feel Him around me. When Moses asked who He was, God simply replied “I AM who I AM.” He owes us no explanations or warm and fuzzy feelings. His purpose continues whether or not we recognize or feel it.
“Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.”
-Joshua 5: 13-15
I have to think that hope is the same. Sometimes just stepping out the front door is enough to crush me. Each police siren I hear roaring through my city neighborhood darkens my spirit a little and reading the newspaper can be enough at times to overwhelm any sense of optimism and light I have for the world. I don’t always feel like hoping. I don’t always experience the carefree vibe of “everything’s going to be all right”. Sometimes I feel downright hopeless, frustratingly powerless in a world so broken that I don’t know where to start.
But I keep going. No matter how small my actions, no matter how hopelessly inadequate they feel, each one represents one more healing step towards the transformation of the world. I keep going because even when I want to, I can’t give up. I choose hope, even when everything around me is screaming that it’s dead.
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner once wrote, “”God does not have hands, we do. Our hands are God’s. It is up to us what God will see and hear, up to us, what God will do. Humanity is the organ of consciousness of the universe … Without our eyes the Holy One of Being would be blind.”
And I see that — not that God has no power in this world (indeed, His power is limitless) but that His love is constantly drawing us in to participate deeply in His kingdom’s restoration. Christ left us that charge — to be His hands and feet. It’s part of the grand, cosmic plan that every action and step we take sings of hope, even when our hearts are breaking from it.
Today, I may not feel like hoping. The cold steel of the sky penetrates my bones and my ears still ring with reports of terrorist attacks and economic downfall. But I will act with hope. I will live with the daring belief that even when I don’t feel Him, God Himself is acting through my hands and feet, caring for His beloved children. And it’s about time that I recognized His presence.