Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thoughts On Hope, Faith & the Fine Art of Panicking!

Hope versus Faith has been a huge intellectual and spiritual journey/battle for me this past year. As I've come to terms with a lot of let-downs, things that I've wanted for my life that have not happened, I've been wrestling with the smoky, hard to catch notion of hope and trying to balance it with the idea that faith is tangible, in its own way, and never a let-down.

As I've been thinking and praying and reading on this concept, no good answers have come to me, till last night. Last night, an old verse hit me in a new way, and I found my answer in something that feels like it was always in front of my face. Romans 5:4. It was there all the time, I just didn't see it, even though I read this verse in my quest for answers, many a time. Maybe I just wasn't ready.

See, Romans 5:4 says "And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts, by the Holy Spirit, who He has given us." Well it's more like verses 2-5 but....

.... You see, every time I had read it this summer, I was focusing on the whole building of character through sufferings and perseverance, and how the outcome is hope. But the question I was asking myself, nah, the statement I was cynically telling myself, is that when we suffer, and persevere, our outcome is empty, because hope is empty. What good is suffering if the reward we get is an empty hope, a promise of "Maybe"? I was skipping the next part, verse 5 where we are told why hope doesn’t disappoint, because I didn't want to believe that hope could comfort me. It is after all an intangible. Hope, for me this year, has been nothing but a big, fat let-down, so it's no comfort at all!

I turned 35 this year, and it was a difficult birthday. I've had to come to grips with the fact that I'm pushing 40, and the only thing I've got going for me is that maybe I can still pass for 29. I've wanted things in my life, heck I've wanted my life to look a certain way, and it has ended up looking and being so very different than what I could have ever hoped for. This here is my life - the life of a plain jane, a loudmouth, a single woman who toys with the idea of cats, but is too allergic, who's nice enough to be everyone's friend, but not pretty enough to be anybody's true love, who can't keep her foot out of her mouth or both feet on the ground, who must be content to hold other people's babies, and sing other people's children to sleep at night, who is frightfully unemployed, and can't find a job I'm excited about that wants to hire me, for my life! Who writes one heck of a run-on sentence! Where is the hope in all of this? This is not what I hoped for in my life.

For months I've been ignoring verse 5 and stubbornly looking God’s word in the face and saying "No God, you're wrong, hope does disappoint, because I am disappointed that the things I have hoped for have not come true." In my mind and heart, I’ve been able to be honest with myself, and say that faith always comes through. But that’s only because faith is something that I’ve believed to be grounded in God alone, unlike my three-wishes-from-a-genie misinformed notion of hope. Nowhere in the bible are we told to put our faith in the things of this earth that we want. We only put our faith in God and His goodness, as verse 1 of Romans 5 starts out by telling us. The only reason faith ever pans out is because it's always in God, and not in the things that we think will make us happy. Unlike what I’ve believed hope to be.

And that has made all the difference. You see, last night, as I was reading, I realized that the reason hope really doesn't disappoint, is because the hope we are called to have has it's basis in God, and the pouring out of His love in the Holy Spirit, into our hearts. Hope, as the bible explains it, isn’t for things. And it’s certainly not in things other than our heavenly Father. Paul doesn't say that we should have faith in finding love, or having babies, or getting a great job, or just not being a loser. That’s not what faith is. Nor does he say that we should hope for these things either. Really, in this context, the only thing he is saying about hope is that it’s born of suffering, is the result of great character and won’t disappoint because of God’s love. We hope, because we have seen His goodness. We hope because He's strengthened our faith. We hope not for things, but in Him.

You'd think this would have been pretty obvious to me at the beginning of this year, of this quest. That I could just read the verse, and get it. And maybe you readers have had this figured out the whole time. But I'm not the brightest light on the tree when it comes to this hope thing, or deep spiritual issues in general. It’s a good thing I can hope in a beautifully caring God who will never let me down, even if I do end up a crazy cat lady – I need all the help I can get! But the fact is, because I had been hoping for things, and not hoping in Him I just didn’t get it. I was looking for a magical wish granting quality, something to give me what I want, when truly, the thing I’d been looking for is a result of not getting what I want, it’s the beautiful result of a suffering heart. In which case, after the rejections and disappointments and failures of this year, well frankly, even of the past 35 years, I might be first in line in 2011 for a big heaping spoonful of hope.

So now I think I can go into whatever comes next with a changed, and better, perspective. Yes, I still hope everything turns out alright. I still hope to have my life slightly resemble the white picket fence vision I always wanted it to be. But I am not placing my hope in hope alone anymore. Hope is no longer than end, but more the means to get there. As for the end, well last night I saw God change my viewpoint and strengthen my faith through providing me much desired answers. I can rejoice today in a God that loves me enough to show me His goodness and how to walk with Him. And I know that He will be faithful to continue to do so.

In any case, this coming new year (yes, its right around the corner folks!) will be a life-changing one for me. I took a huge leap of faith yesterday, and the surface water of this step was, at first, exhilarating and exciting. But this morning I ended up in the deeper waters of panic! You see, after months and months of being unemployed, and after the past few weeks plunging me into a very real bout of depression over the state of my life, I realized I couldn't just sit still waiting for something to happen anymore. So I took action and did something to move forward and realize a dream of mine. I applied at a local college, for full time classes starting January 10th, and am going to go back to school to get my degree to be a High School English teacher.

It's a long story how this all sorta came about, and I could blog about it.... but let's just say for now, that taking this step was the rope that was thrown to me as I wallowed in a great big pity-party for the last three weeks. Funny, how if I look at it, the rope was there all along. This action was borne from meeting with a friend this week, who is, in a real and tangible way, letting God use him for His Kingdom. He's someone who, after being unemployed for only a month, himself took a leap of faith and decided to go into full time ministry, and now is support raising. There I sat, across from him in Starbucks, feeling horribly convicted, and asking myself "What am I doing to serve the Kingdom of God? Or even to make my own life better?" I go on job interviews, I wait and I hope. But I wallow in the pity party that my all too long list of life failures has thrown for me. And I wanted to be more like him, more like the active, dynamic and seeking daughter I know God wants me to be.

So, I remembered the goal I set for myself, that if I hadn't found a job by the fall, I'd go back to school and do what it takes to pursue something I really loved. And there's not much I love more than high school kids and books and writing, so it seems like a natural fit. Plus, I want more than anything to impact the young people of today for the Lord, and to drive them towards His goodness and a closer walk with Him. And 18 years ago, a wonderful woman by the name of Diane Martinez was my High School English and Journalism teacher, and she impacted me in such a way that almost two decades later, I'm still inspired to follow in those footsteps.

But I gotta tell you this is one great big leap of faith. I’m gonna need a whole lotta faith that God will provide, and give me the means to provide for myself. Things that weigh on my mind, even on day 2 of this decision are student loans, financial aid, and the fact that I’ve never been the best student. I may tease a dear friend about his 7 years of college, but after this move, I’ll have him beat with a whole lot more than that! I'm downright panicky today, and I know that I will have many more days like this to come. About four years of them.

I am scared. But I have hope. And a new understanding of it. I have hope that God will come through and take care of the details that strike fear in me. I hope that He will make me a good student, and an even better FAFSA applicant. I have hope that no matter how crazy a step this may seem, that He will honor my desire to do something better with my life than sit around watching Dawson’s Creek reruns and hanging out at Jon & Michelle’s all day. And that sometime during these next few years in my life, as I seek a new career, I hope that in His goodness, He might see fit to fulfill some of those other hopes and dreams too. And even if He doesn't, I have a stronger sense of hope, and faith, that my life will still be alright. After all, in His faithfulness, through the pouring out of His love, by the Holy Spirit, for the first time in months, I can say that I have hope, and I'm darn glad about it.

1 comment:

jen hanson said...

I love this and I love you.