The other day I was given a dictionary definition of Hope as ‘the expectation of something good’, while a psychologists said “Hope is more concrete, more active and more vibrant than optimism or wishful thinking”. When I was subsequently asked to write down three things I was truly hoping for, I realized my idea of hope was not really as concrete as that.
Actually, a few months ago I was listening to Kate Bowler, who gave one of my favorite TedTalks. On this occasion she talked was debunking what she called the myth of positivity. It goes something like ‘if I just find the silver lining and look at the bright side, search for the reason behind a tragedy; that then I will muscle through faster, better, stronger, than my loser neighbor, who succumbed to depression or isn’t coping well’. During her talk she said that this kind of positivity mindset “really confuses positivity for a very deep and intense and richer kind of hope.” At that point she didn’t expand on that hope. But the question stuck with me; what made hope different from positivity? So that evening I wrote this:
Hope Can Lament
Hope is better, richer and deeper,
than positivity, optimism and wishful thinking.
Hope can lament,
It can grieve deep loss.
It can be disappointed at the world it sees around us
It can say “Life was not supposed to be this way”.
It can be afraid that it will never be the same again.
Hope can carry that fear, that despair, that anger, that grief,
It carries all that and so much more,
And yet it does not lose Hope
It is not shallow optimism,
nor the perpetual positivity of your Instagram feed,
Nor the fairytales of wishful thinking.
They cannot carry your fear, your grief, your anger,
They crumble in the face of it.
They have nothing to say to it,
besides cheap platitudes
and they leave you stranded in the middle of your pain.
No, Hope can Lament because
it believes that better days are still ahead
It believes this world will be made right,
Somehow, some way.
It believes our hard work and our hard lives will not be in vain
It believes that wherever this life ends,
that end is not the end.
That this life is not only in our hands.
That there is a future where all things will be made new,
not just for me and mine,
but for the world we were meant to bless.
In the face of that Hope, we can Lament loss.
We are living in a very real world,
with very real loss and very real grief.
We have lost things, there are things to fear.
Yet our hope sees beyond those dark mountains to a glorious horizon.
But we still feel all the feels, good and bad, in THIS life.
Expressing those does not diminish our hope beyond,
rather, it acknowledges that in the end
we are only human….
So, no I cannot easily list things I hope for. My hope is not concrete. It is rooted in my faith, and draws strength from that well. I do hope for things; but they are not easy to define, nor are they very personal. Like, how do you define “all things made new”, and “all wil be saved”. I don’t know what that looks like in all of my frail humanity. I scarcely dare contemplate them, but when I feel close to the heart of what I Am, I get glimpses. And they renew my Hope.