Monday, January 16, 2012

Seeing Hope


Sunday, January 8th.  11 a.m.
My family and I are together at our home church.  The Sunday service has started, and we are well into the morning’s congregational worship.   The music is moving, the truths in the lyrics radiating hope:
                                
The lost are saved.
We find our way.
All of us who are condemned feel no shame.
Every fear has no place.
Our enemy has to leave.
All at the sound of Christ’s great Name.

Here, in this setting, our declarations resonate deeply. I know some may find the words ridiculous, but I sing them out. They reflect my own experiences. 

I’m no better than anyone else.  I’ve been lost, and somehow—because of undeserved, Providential mercy—found my way.   I’ve been awed to see God avert an avalanche of thoroughly earned shame.  I’ve known moments that should be fear-flooded, but instead are full of unwarranted but undeniable confidence.  Not in myself, but in a redeeming and saving God.


Jesus. 
Worthy is the lamb that was slain for us.
Son of God and Man.
You are high and lifted up, and all the world will praise Your great Name.

Surrounded by my faith community, my hope blazes.  I sing these words loudly, a proclamation of what has been true in my own life.   

Same day, 8 p.m.
It is near the close of a restful Sabbath.   The day has been (mostly) free of stress, and now the children are in bed, their backpacks ready for the Monday morning flurry to school.



My husband relaxes in his favorite chair, remote in hand, catching up on football scores and the day’s news. 

I see him from the study, where I sit with my laptop, preparing for tomorrow’s return to my teaching job. 







Our quiet companionship is comforting, but anxiety has started its buzz in the back of my mind:  I know the pace is about to pick up, and I wonder if I’m ready, whether I’ll manage with any sort of grace. 


The melodies from the morning’s music are still ringing, the lyrics echoing:

All the weak find their strength.
Hungry souls receive grace
at the sound of Your great Name.

These words are my unconscious prayer.  I’m indeed weak and hungry, so often needing new mercies. 

8:07 p.m., same day
I open my email account and see an unexpected message from a friend.  Her narrative ends with what I (and, more importantly, she) absolutely did not want to hear. 

Cancer.


Invasive surgery.



Lengthy recovery.



Uncertainty.




In an instant, the melody halts.  But one lyric reverberates:

The sick are healed and the dead are raised
at the sound of Your great Name.

When difficulties are at a distance, this line bolsters my confidence.  But now, when I see my friend, nose to nose with the unthinkable, such a claim can haunt me.

It’s one thing to celebrate God’s forgiveness, to be staggered by a mercy that appears in the midst of my own failures.   This gift doesn’t erase my own flaws; it redeems them.  Instead of making my shortcomings disappear, it sparkles all the brighter against the backdrop of shadowy darkness that is my heart. 

It is another thing altogether, though, to believe that an illness, or that death itself, will be eradicated—even by our all-powerful and loving God.

I’ve prayed those prayers, and I’ve seen them answered in both ways:  sometimes the sick have been healed.  A job has been found.  A relationship is restored.  But not always.  And the aftermath of those ungranted requests has the potential to devastate a soul, quench a flame.




6:30 p.m., Sunday, January 15
For days, I can’t shake the thought that both experiences—blazing and flickering hope--are real.  

So is hope extinguished.

I want to protect this fragile hope—mine, and my friend’s.

But how?

Even the source of true hope for centuries and multitudes acknowledges the heartlessness of singing songs to a troubled, hope-struggling heart.   I’ve felt that salt stinging my own wounds.  I don’t want to share it.

When we can’t see evidence of what we hope for, when the wasting away is so easy to recognize, it is easy to let the candle sputter out. 

So where do we look when what we so desperately need to see will not be found with our physical eyes?

Maybe we fix our soul’s eyes on something else altogether.  Maybe we cup our hands around the flame, look for what we cannot see, reiterate this truth: it’s the unseen which is eternal, life-giving, renewing, flame-sustaining.




Faith means being sure of the things we hope for
and knowing that something is real . . .
even if we do not see it.

2 comments:

  1. Meaningful and so thought provoking!!! . . . and real

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  2. Love that song! It lingers in the mind for days and i love that it does! ..love your insight on life..love reading your thoughts:)

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