I think I have been learning a difficult lesson these past few years. Doug and I have had our share of challenge and heartache as a result of different decisions we have made about school, jobs, family and ministry. And I have had a tendency toward an attitude that goes something like this: if I can just get through this specific challenge or circumstance, then happiness is surely around the corner. I have, as I think many of us do if we are honest, linked my happiness with specific external realities. And the fact of the matter is, I don’t see many of these externals changing anytime soon. So either I continue in the pursuit, the expectation of things changing, or I learn a new way of living in the midst of what is, however less than ideal or outright difficult it may be.
Last night Doug’s mom asked us to reflect on hope, her sermon topic for this week. It is the first Sunday in Advent, a season marked by waiting and expectation; a season defined by knowing what it means to hope. I know that I live with so much: freedom, material comforts, and opportunity. And yet I am so easily consumed by the things I do not have: the dreams that remain unrealized; the expectations that are woefully unmet. And I choose to live in the empty spaces rather than deal with what I have been given.
There is a lie in the church that says that God is near when your life looks and feels good. And so we push through the valleys and shadows in our pursuit of God’s goodness and blessing for us. And too often, I am afraid, we miss God in the process. I think that is some of what I have been doing. And so I feel the need for a reorientation: for new eyes that can see mangers and crosses as God-bathed and not get lost in longings for thrones and crowns. Jesus spoke all the time about having eyes to see. Like so many of his contemporaries, I feel like I am at risk of missing the most important things, not out of a lack of devotion or faith but simply longings that miss the mark and deny what God is doing right in front of me.
This is what I am learning right now about hope.