What is hope—-really? It’s believing in the impossible, that a Begonia flower can grow straight through cement and bloom when it reaches the light, even in November, even after a freeze (as pictured above). My wife and I discovered it at the end of our driveway one afternoon, before we pulled in the garage.
And what about faith, hope’s next door neighbor. According to the late Martin Luther King, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” And if I could add to King’s quote, “It’s putting one foot in front of the other when you don’t have the wherewithal or emotional energy to take the first step.”
So many folks want to be people of faith and also be hopeful. But some are weary of holding on to a thread of hope and they aren’t helped when they aren’t given much hope, like when a verbally clumsy, well-meaning Christian, tells a suffering neighbor that holding on to a thread of hope is not enough. So that struggling pilgrim is left feeling helpless because of the last straw of an unnecessary comment.
Did the men and women mentioned in Hebrews hall of fame of faith in chapter 11 have a thick-braided rope to hold onto? I don’t think so. If you disagree, tell that to Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Joseph, Moses and Rahab, the prostitute.
People in the real world want the raw and the real, not the churchy and ideal. However, some really do want to bridge what they hear on Sunday to their other six days. The late Eugene Peterson, the man who wrote The Message Bible, had this same desire. From the authorized biography, A Burning in my Bones, “Eugene found something he’d always wanted but had not always known how to name: a true joining of his Sunday faith and weekday world.” (pg. 80, Winn Collier)
Wouldn’t you and I be more hopeful if we no longer felt disconnected between Sunday and our work week or what we claim to believe in front of others and how we really live when no one is around? That is the rub. Aren’t we all just barely hanging on to a thread of hope–sometimes?
Iraq War veteran and brain surgeon Dr. W. Lee Warren held on to a thread of hope for years after he got a nightmare of a phone call on August 20, 2013. His son Mitch and his best friend were found dead. They had been stabbed.
Dr. Warren already struggled with faith way before he got that call all because of his occupation. “How can I, as a person of faith, honestly counsel a patient to pray and not give up when I look at their MRI and see a malignant tumor like glioblastoma and I know what’s going to happen to them?” (Hope is the First Dose, pg.99)
Warren also describes how hard it was to be hopeful then, “I knew that even though I was starting to learn how to walk back up that staircase, the one that kept leading me down to revisit the trauma of losing my son, I had left so much of myself down there too. Unfinished business resided there, and I didn’t know if I could reclaim it all. Was I damaged to the core? Was that happier part of my life over? Why was it taking so long to find my way? (Hope is the First Dose, pg. 179)
Warren goes on to provide help and hope to his readers, what he calls self-brain surgery and it’s spiritually based on a verse I previously memorized, and also quote, say out loud and silently to myself, multiple times a day, sometimes in the shower, sometimes when I walk our neighborhood or after waking up from a depressing dream:
“…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5b, NIV)
Here are the negative thoughts that filled Dr. Warren’s head while grieving the death of his son:
- “I did something wrong, or he would have been home with me that night.
- Not protecting Mitch means I’ve failed as a father.
- What credibility do I have to try to advise my other kids when I couldn’t even keep their brother alive?
- Nothing matters now.
- God abandoned me, doesn’t love me, or maybe isn’t real.” (Hope is the First Dose, pg. 208)
With God’s help and God’s words (2 Corinthians 10:5b) Dr. Warren turned those thoughts around:
- “You will always be sad about losing your son because you’re normal.
- But Jesus said that in this hard world you’ll have trouble and that he came to give you abundant life.
- Your sadness will never go away, and you can have an abundant life amid the hardest things because Jesus is not a liar.
- You have lost Mitch, and you have a beautiful family who loves you.
- You can think of a thousand ways in which having nineteen years with Mitch was better than having a lifetime without him.
- This gratitude makes the sadness a thing in your life, not the thing.
- You believe that you will see Mitch again, which means your sadness does not have the final word. There is more to this story.” (Hope is the First Dose, pg. 212-213)
That is why I wrote my memoir, No Hugs Allowed. I wanted to first tell about a hopeless and dysfunctional relationship with my father who was not a daddy that continued for over five decades, and then provide the reader with a hopeful solution. But consulting sixty of my journals and taking four years to complete my story was far from easy, but it had to be done. As I wrote in chapter 2:
“I dreaded the descent to the dark cellar of my memory, working through each cobweb of dysfunction. Most basements have at least one window, but not cellars. No light to shine in makes it an oppressive place to enter. But I chose to be courageous, to open that ominous door, and to walk down each splintered stair, one step at a time.” (page 12)
It’s impossible to appreciate the hopefulness without first walking through the helplessness. And the one quote that spurred me on to write my story came from author Ann Voskamp. She wrote, “We need your raw story, or we lose any hope of the redemptive Story.” (emphasis mine)
Why not apply the hopeful dose of 2 Corinthians 10:5b to your life and thoughts and see how long it takes before your faith breaks through and blooms despite the most dense of circumstances.
Stairway picture courtesy of pexels.com and flower pics are courtesy of “Nelson & his Nikon”
My memoir, No Hugs Allowed (my search for unconditional love) can be purchased at Amazon, available in paperback, hardback and eBook. Click the BUY ON AMAZON tab below.