Recent comments by presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann have stirred up the discussion about gay marriage once again. While speaking to a group of high school…
Oh, January. The turning of a page, the start of a chapter, and the beginning of a journey into undiscovered country. A time of pledging to not repeat the same mistakes or failings that the preceding twelve months brought time and again. Looking at the world with fresh, clear eyes and the chance for a new start. A hope in the unseen.
The irony that “hope” is a four-letter word is not lost on me. And like other four-letter words, this one can cut with its sharpness.
For such a simple word, “hope” carries a world of power behind it. It instills something inside of us. We can use it to project a sensation into others. As a verb, it is full of action, but never unfocused intensity. “Hope” always directly correlates to someone or something. Is it any surprise that “Hope” is a relatively popular name to give baby girls? Like the individual who would bear the name, “hope” implies strength, inspiration, and a sense of wonder.
Perhaps the passage we are most familiar with in the Bible where “hope” occurs is found in the oft-quoted verse “Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love” (I Corinthians 13:13, NIV). It’s interesting that “hope” falls between “faith” and “love,” because there is something to be said about how important “hope” can and should be when linking these three idea together. …and yes: I know that “the greatest of these [three] is love,” but hope is the bridge we must cross in order to transition between the three.
Hope (pardon the pun) is most often found in our lives on a metaphorical rope, dangling before us. The idea and definition of hope is perhaps more difficult to spell out than its companion terms from I Corinthians 13, because the idea behind where and when we find hope is at times as elusive to grasp as is the concept itself. But when we can grab ahold of it, we hang on for dear life.
You can lose faith in a person or idea, but there remains an implication that it could be found again. You can fall out of love with a person, but there remains the possibility that you can fall in love again. To give up hope not only feels like a personal loss, but it also seems darker, like a curtain is drawn to a close around something. Think about it this way: when you hear on the news that a search and rescue team has “given up hope” of finding a missing individual or of finding them alive, we almost automatically begin to assume the worst, even with no evidence to corroborate that this is the end. When we give up hope, we have a sense of something being taken from us. When we say or hear someone say that they have given up hope, it carries a sense of profound finality with it.
Conversely, “hope” can simultaneously seem a more fluid idea than “faith” or “love.” To say “I have faith that this will happen” carries a conviction of assurance that your belief can make it real. To state “I would love for this to happen” makes it personal, and to not take action to see that whatever the idea or plan comes to fruition would almost feel like an attack on the individual making the wish. But when we hope, we more than make expression of trust for something to occur; we imply a sense of child-like belief.
Maybe that’s why January seems such a perfect time for hope to come into play in our lives. Other than the literal start of a new year, it feels symbolically appropriate as a time for a new beginning: we are coming off a season of mystery and beauty, of looking and giving beyond ourselves. We will have just celebrated the birth of the One who brought hope into the world, even going so far as to sing that His birth was a “thrill of hope.” And as we carry this attitude beyond the turning of the page of the calendar, to paraphrase Scrooge, we honor Christ in our hearts, as best we can.
At least, that’s my hope.