Live Into Hope
One of the books I've been reading lately is In the Shelter, the excellent spiritual memoir written by the Irish poet and public theologian, Padraig O'Tuama. The other day, I read a quote from the book that I've been thinking about ever since:
Hope is a song sung when everything else says you shouldn't be singing. Hope is joy. Hope is a testimony that says "even if it doesn't come true, I will live like it might." Hope is what helps us survive. Hope is little light.
I would urge you to read that quote a couple of times before moving on because it's permeated with the kind of inspiration that we all need right about now.
I have to admit the news around us isn't all that great. The global pandemic that we've been battling over the past sixteen months and change seems to have found new footing.
That news in and of itself has been hard to take, but when you combine it with reports of environmental disasters, economic challenges, and the deepening divisions between people in our society over these issues... it's a lot to absorb.
And yet, I still find myself filled with hope--even though it doesn't often make sense to feel it.
Like I said, I've been thinking about that quote from O'Tuama's book for a while now. But it took a baseball game and a night out with family and friends to bring home the truth of it in an unexpected way.
Last night I went to a minor league baseball game with a couple of my kids, and a small group of folks from my church, including a couple of staff members and volunteer leaders.
The crowd was sparse, but there was energy there--good, positive, and hopeful energy. We cheered, ate hot dogs and peanuts, razzed the opposing teams' batters, laughed, had great conversations, and every single one of us left the game smiling, happy, and also a bit tired.
It's not easy work to push back the darkness and let in the light.
As I sat down to reflect on this today, I remembered a snippet of a verse from Psalm 137---a psalm written during a time of exile, upheaval, sorrow, and uncertainty.
The people of Israel find themselves in uncharted territory, in unfamiliar surroundings, and this is the question they ask themselves:
Oh, how could we ever sing God’s song in this wasteland?
Psalm 137 is complicated, to say the least. If you don't believe me, read it for yourself. It is the song of people who are weary, angry, and afraid. It lashes out in shocking ways.
Interestingly, portions of Psalm 137 are prayed at every Jewish wedding and also at other joyous celebrations in the Jewish tradition. It serves as a way to express defiant hope.
This juxtaposition enables those who pray/sing this psalm to say:
"That's where we were... that's how it felt... and yet, we have hope. We have hope for new beginnings and new joys. We have hope that the world can change, and we're going to live into that hope no matter what."
If you struggle to feel hopeful today, I urge you to take that quote, copy it down by hand on a card or a piece of paper, and post it somewhere where you will regularly see it.
There is no better way to bring about a transformed and renewed world than to live as though it is possible to do so. Sing your song of hope--even when it doesn't make sense. Let yourself feel joy. Keep pushing back the darkness.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.