Saturday, January 19, 2013

History and Hope

Is it just me? Or are we in a season of struggle? And for once, when I say, “we,” I don’t just mean me and my family. I think I’ve already established that we’re there. And we’re working our way through it.  But as I pause and take a look around me, I am suddenly very aware of the struggles in the lives of those closest to me. There is cancer here, death of a beloved family member there, struggles to raise a child with special needs, extended unemployment, not enough employment (you know, when technically you have a job, but it doesn’t cover all the bills and needs – never mind the wants), oh wait – there’s cancer again, debilitating chronic pain, a home that is broken into and violated, a gross injustice that carries on for months – maybe years, family members who can no longer care for themselves, family members who won’t grow up and take care of themselves. On and on. And that’s just in my little circle – my little corner of the world. It’s exhausting. And draining. And, yes, let’s just say it, a little depressing.

How do we keep going amidst all this hurt, pain, and struggle? If you’re like me, it doesn’t always cut it to turn to a positive mantra about embracing the pain; bucking up and plowing through despite of it all; light at the end of the tunnel; things will get worse before they get better. No. That really doesn’t help. My husband used to say, “well, it can’t get worse that it is now.” I’d give him a level stare (sometimes a glare) and icily ask him to refrain from saying that because you know what, it really could get worse (and oftentimes did), and while I’m not superstitions, I’m not willing to tempt fate – or anything else –  by throwing that out there.

In long, Saturday afternoon conversations, (the woman who is practically) my sister often gently reminds me that this life is just preparation. It’s not the end goal. Our eyes need to be on heaven – not this broken place that is full of trouble. And while I’m in agreement with that, there is part of me that cries out for just a little bit more here on earth. While I’m here, I just need a little something to hang on to when it gets rough.

Two of the things I hang on to, are history and hope.

History is important to me because I hang on to everything. Just ask my husband. Getting me to get rid of anything is nearly impossible. Every issue of National Geographic magazine from 2001 to 2003 that I never even read? Keep ‘em – I might want to read them some day and my daughter might find them interesting for a school project. Every paper that I ever wrote between Kindergarten and Senior Year in college? Got ‘em – it’s my evolution as a writer and I need to know where I’ve been (even when I was there in crayon). Personalized cards printed with our address from three homes ago? Check. Day planners from a decade ago? Check. (Almost) every note from my best friend in high school that we passed between classes (not telling you how old those are) for four years? Check. I . Keep. Everything.

But all joking aside, I keep things because they are part of who I am, and they tell me where I’ve been. I keep a record of my experiences for the same reason. And in times of trouble, I can look back on those records and see the journeys I have been on, the mountains I’ve had to climb, the valleys I have wandered through, and yes, the fact that I have come out on the other side of those every time. And in each of those records – journal entries, cards, notes on post-its – I see consistently who has walked beside me each step of the way; keeping promises; staying faithful; holding me close. This personal friend and stalwart companion; this God of all comfort; this Jesus is woven into my history. He is the reason I have evidence that I can get through life’s stormy troubles – whatever may come. And He holds the key to my other talisman: hope.

Hope has been called many things. Emily Dickenson said, "Hope" is the thing with feathers—That perches in the soul—And sings the tune without the words—And never stops—at all. The writer of Hebrews says that our hope is an anchor for the soul. philosophy skincare put hope in a jar and charges $115 for eight ounces.

My hope comes from knowing my world is held in the hands of the one who created it – and that His plans for me are good. I don’t always know what those plans are – and that is such a struggle for a person who does not like surprises and who likes to plan everything – but I’m learning to trust Him more each day, and that will be enough for now. My hope comes from promises kept – His promises for my care and, yes, comfort. Some of them have wound up being pretty miraculous. But they’ve never failed. My hope comes from seeing changes around me – mainly in myself as I’m striving to be better than I am now, but also in those close to me who are pulling close to Him, and then evidencing change in their lives as well.

What about you? What’s your history? What’s your hope?

It’s a broken, troubled world out there. And it’s not necessarily getting better. But I believe we are called to hope in this broken time: to have hope, and to be hope, and to show the way to hope. Having a history of promises kept and faithfulness in evidence, gives me hope, and calls me to come ahead to another day. To another journey. To another bend in the road. There will always be something before us: some mountain to climb or some valley to go through. We can’t stand still. There is only moving forward. But to do so with history behind us and hope before us – well, that makes all the difference in the going, doesn’t it?

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