Sunday, August 7, 2011


We often concieve of hope as an empty glass we wish were full. But hope is not empty. Hope is an activity. It is more like hiking a mountian than a glass half-full. I am by no means an expert on hiking, but I have been on enough trails to get the general idea. At some point during a hike I inevitably get frustrated. This is hard, Why am I doing this again? I am so out of shape, my lungs are burning, my legs hurt and my poor, flatlander body cannot get enough air at a mile and a half above sea level. One of my greatest challenges (besides generally being out of shape) is to get to a point where I find a reason to fight through all of the pain and frustration. SOMETHING has to motivate me to get off the rock, back on the trail, and through the next set of obstacles. Ususally that something is the view.  There is nothing quite like the view from the top of a mountian, and usually the desire for that view that drives me through the uphill climb, and one more switchback. When I arrive, it is even more valuable and breathtaking because of the effort. In some way I have owned a part of the mountian through my toil; the view belongs to me and I to it.

Summiting the mountian is, of course, the best-case scenario. My Dad, who is a seasoned and accomplished hiker has rules for climing. "A day in the wilderness is never wasted."  "There is no view like the one from the top." My Dad knows that sometimes we don't make it. We may not experience the thing we are hoping for, but it is rewarding to go through the effort anyway. So, also, is Biblical hope. Hope fights through opposition and has its own rewards. When we hope in something, we are letting go of the present reality with one hand  and reaching towards the coming, hoped-for reality with the other. We pass up on somethng immediate for something not yet actual. We put our time, effort, energy and recources into that something that is not yet actual because we hope that it will be actual. This is hard to describe because most of this effort is interal and abstract, but it is real effort nonetheless. The Biblical idea of hope is not wishful thinking, it is an active investment in a reality that God has promised. I don't just sit and wait for the fulfillment of the promise, I am motivated enough to invest in it.

Hope fights through opposition and has its own rewards. Hope must acknowledge both dissapointment and possibility as real and valid. It must wrestle equally with both and be swayed ever just the tiniest bit more by possibility. (It must be so much easier for an optimist to hope) Those who hope lets themselves be motivated enough by the promise of God that they move towards that possibility.

I am greatly encouraged by this. And I have to fight for hope itself to have space in my heart because it takes energy, time, and investment. These days I have to move aside despair, self-pity, and pride to make room for hope. No, hope is not passive. Instead, the call of the Spirit is to get up, face the trail ahead of me, and keep walking because the view is worth the effort. And in so doing I am both getting closer to the summit and also reaping the rewards of a day in the wilderness. Hope, my friends, is active, and it is far from empty.

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