How can my days be so incredibly encouraging and discouraging at the same time? I just looked up the word hope as I have a rock that sits on my desk with that word carved into it. I often overuse the word by saying "I hope...." and something that may be trivial like "I hope you have a nice day." But what really is it to hope? There were all kinds of definitions of the word but the one that stops me short is "to desire with expectation of obtainment".
Isn't it human to desire and sometime know you have your back to the wall or up against impossible odds and yet still have a huge hope you can beat the odds? You desire obtainment, but is it really the expectation? Do I expect to always obtain? I feel greedy praying with expectation of obtainment like I'm demanding my way or the highway, but I feel false and faltering of faith to not expect what I'm asking be granted.
“Ask and it shall be given unto you…” What isn’t said clearly is that it isn’t a one to one exchange. We can ask, but the answer isn’t always the one we imagined was the answer to the question. That takes us back to expectations. Is the answer sometimes asking us to change what we expect to happen? Is the point in asking to change the person that is asking? Change me to see beyond my expectations to what? That is where the picture gets murky for me. How can I change the questions when I can only see one answer?
Often I'm desperate for a change in a predicted outcome like when both my brother's lives hung in the balance. My expectations weren't met, but I understood that was a possibility. My hopes weren't met. I miss them and they died way too early. I had hoped that wouldn't be the case.
I had hope when I auditioned for way too many grad schools and got in to the one I thought impossible to be accepted into and I graduated from there too. Surviving it at times seemed a bit hopeless at the time, but my hopes carried me through. However my hope was met not in the way I expected at all.
When my son was born and I wasn’t supposed to be able to have a child at all, but I was granted one. Soon after the diagnosis of autism came and things changed for us as a family again. Yes, not what we expected or hoped, but he is still a gift and quite amazing. He is what makes me stop and ponder such things as the nature of hope. He makes me change my expectations and in many ways gives me hope and stretches my definition of hope. I wait and hope for a good future, but my hopes change daily in each moment.
My son is brilliant and an incredible human being who teaches me how to hang on to hope. He is a tenacious boy filled with hopes and dreams of all kinds. His dreams are often my dreams for him also. He wants so much. I want it for him or with him to encourage him, but I’m discouraged by his fears and the hidden things that seem to overwhelm that hope, those dreams, and our moments of connectedness. I stumble around trying to help and I’m so afraid I’m hurting what we hope for.
It puts a new spin on that phrase in O Little Town of Bethlehem“....the hope and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight." This Christmas, I think about what is that hope I have in Christ? What does it mean to set aside my fear and hope for something better? Or is that what the song is talking about? The hope and fear of all the years….my years….your years are met in Emanuel, God with us. He is with us and for us despite our stumbles. May your hope be renewed or revived or resuscitated as you turn your face towards the Christ child tonight.
*Photos: painting of "Magdalene" by Titian above, my son at a Christmas light festival, and a nativity ornament at that same festival "The Lights of Christmas" in Stanwood, WA.