On Hope

If you know me, you probably know that I work shifts. If you know me well, you know that while I like the freedom this gives me to serve in certain ways and see different people. If you talk with me about it for longer than 5 minutes, though, you also probably know that I often struggle with sleep and depression when I hit the middle of a 3-11 week. And lately? Lately it’s been enough that I begin to feel dread sinking into the pit of my stomach by the time Saturday evening rolls around.

I’ve always looked towards the weekend before as a time to fill myself up. See friends, do things with people, talk to as many people at church as possible…but sometimes that doesn’t happen. Sometimes the weekend before is the loneliest and sparse…so waking up Monday morning can be difficult. This week it was bleak – even though I actually had plans for the week – Monday was hard.

I felt (read: feel) so very empty.

How many times do I put my hope where it shouldn’t be? I hope for things yet to come but I hope for the wrong things. I hope for goodness and I hope for peace. I hope for stability and I hope to move out. I build up my own kingdom of hopes and dreams…but when the things I hope for don’t happen when I want them to, when the walls of hope I’ve built to protect me come crashing down, I realize I’ve foolishly built them on my own strength.

And I’ve given up hope on the days I have left,
But I cling to the hope of my life in the next
– Deathbed, Relient K

I’ve not given up hope that the days I have left won’t be God-glorifying or worthwhile, but I have given up the hope that they will ever be everything I need. In my most despairing moments this week I had the above song lyric ring through my mind. I was tired, discouraged, and defeated … but even though hope felt lost it wasn’t. Hope was still available for me. I can cling by a desperate thread to the hope that I’m promised beyond tomorrow – my hope is for more than what I will have next week or next year. My hope is in the lover of my soul. My hope is that someday the suffering that I experience will pass away and I will be home. Home where I belong.

I don’t like feeling this way … but the more I live with crutches in my life – when my vices of fear and loneliness come to play – the more deeply I understand Paul when he said he was ok with his weaknesses.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
– 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I used to take comfort in this verse thinking my weaknesses were things to be overcome – that they wouldn’t really be weaknesses anymore. But I don’t think that’s what it’s saying. My weaknesses will still be weaknesses. They don’t “go away”. Hardship isn’t any less hard just because Christ is with me. I don’t get to be glorified and look strong when I “accept” my weaknesses. It’s not like job interviews where your weaknesses are actually strengths…it’s still going to suck. Every day. But it’s in those weaknesses that he is there. In my fear he is my courage, in my loneliness my companion, in my doubt my truth.

When I contritely say the words “more of you less of me” I am saying that I want to have Christ shine out from me. He does that in my strengths but he does that in my weaknesses too. He carries me through the fire and the flood – but I still have to go through them.

As I begin to lose myself in him it matters less what my weaknesses or strengths look like to other people and it matters more how close I am to him today. And if I think about it? It is in my weakest moments that I have felt him closest and reflecting on those moments when I have learned the most.

I find hope when I’m let down
Not in me … in You
It’s in you
I hope to lose myself for good
I hope to find it in the end
Not in me … in You
– You, Switchfoot

I keep saying to myself that I want to live in such a way that if I died tomorrow I would be happy. Relieved. Satisfied. Overjoyed. Content that I would get to see my saviour face to face and tell him I tried – and to have him look at me and say that I had done well. The mere existence of love and joy here on earth can give me hope that someday I will be somewhere those are the only things – the things I experience here are merely a glimmer of what is to come!

I belong to a country without borders & politicians, I am a citizen of a kingdom where justice prevails and the weak are made strong. And one day we will be in the presence of love, know it fully in our beings, and be with him forever. But we get to start now. We get to begin to bring the kingdom to those around us on earth.

And today? Today all I can do is cling – cling with desperate hands and feet. I can hang on, clutching at the hope I have. I can breathe in and out, knowing that strength can be getting out of bed before 10:30 tomorrow. The words he speaks are hope – and that hope will get me through tomorrow.

Every word you speak is the air I breathe.
Air I Breathe, Matt Kearney

 

 

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Hope

This has been a long time coming – I’ll be the first to admit that. But it had to come. I’ll also be the first to admit that.

When we have nothing else to cling to in our lives, what do we do? Is this a cue to toss in the towel and give up? Is it an excuse to go indulge in something we know full well we’re going to regret one day?

Unfortunately (or fortunately …) I have found myself in the place of emptiness before. It’s not exactly the most comforting place to be. But when I look back on these moments, I notice that I have come out on the other side with new tools, perspectives, and maturity I never would have gained without it.

And this gives me hope.

One of the key phrases that was told to me when I first ran empty was said by my area director at camp (summer 2010). I had been sitting there telling her about how horrible I thought my life was going and how all these things had happened and it wasn’t fair. And she looked at me and said:

“Christy, you just have to choose joy.”

Well, let me tell you – that completely stopped me in my tracks. Could…could it really be that easy? She left shortly after that, telling me to come join everyone else when I was ready. And I sat there for a while (I was in a gazebo). And then I got up, walked out, and with every step I took, I said something I was going to leave behind (it conveniently was a stone path out to everyone else). I wasn’t perfect after this, but I kept reminding myself when something was getting me down that I had left it in that gazebo. And I now had hope that I would be ok. Hope in Christ that I would move on.

And I did.

And so here I am today; reaching the end of a different tunnel. It was no easier to make it through this time, but I’m emerging realizing different things. And yet they are the same things. All of the lyrics to Francesca Battistelli song “Free to Be Me” apply to this, but the chorus will suffice.

‘Cause I got a couple dents in my fender
Got a couple rips in my jeans
Try to fit the pieces together
But perfection is my enemy
On my own I’m so clumsy
But on Your shoulders I can see
I’m free to be me

In essence, I have realized that I am not perfect – nor will I ever be. But I can hope that even though I’ve got a few things not quite right, even though I don’t know what’s coming around the bend, even though I still struggle with things that I wish I grew out of – I am still growing. I am free to be me, even though I’m still learning about who that is. I don’t know what tomorrow holds. But I have hope that it will be good.

Because the one who loves me has ordained it to be so.