I’m a ‘glass half empty’ person, always have been. According to my Enneagram Personality Type, I automatically see the faults or imperfections in a situation, which makes me a great proof reader! But it does mean I can lose sight of the big picture and it makes me quite the pessimist. I tell myself that worrying is a good way to plan and prepares me to deal better with potential problems or delays. Part of me really believes that.
So I struggle with the idea of hope. It frightens me. John Cleese’s character in the film Clockwise said ‘It’s not the despair, Laura. I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand.’ I can relate to that: I feel more comfortable expecting the worst than hoping for the best knowing I face possible disappointment.
So Acts 2.26 has challenged my usual approach to life:
“I have pitched my tent in the land of hope” (The Message) or to put it another way: “My body will make its home in hope”.
We think of hope as a feeling or a state of mind but this text implies that hope is manifested in behaviour instead. Action is required – to pitch a tent or make a home requires effort. We used to go on camping holidays and I remember the particular effort required to pitch a large family tent in the middle of Swiss flooding! And we’ve spent many years making our house into the home we wanted. We’ve personalised it with mementoes, significant objects, and our personal preferences. Decorating, moving furniture, making soft furnishings, collecting paintings and ornaments have all taken effort, energy and time. It has also involved putting into practise an attitude of welcome, acceptance and love, whatever my mood.
How will I know I’ve made a home in hope? I can look around my house and see the evidence of a home: the coordinated colour scheme, the growing garden, our family history told in photographs, as well as my sons’ enthusiasm to invite friends round or my dad’s ease at falling asleep in his reclining chair here. Feeling at home somewhere means feeling comfortable and accustomed to a place. It’s my habitual place to be, somewhere I know I belong, and where I long to return to. It is my default mode.
So to make a home in hope, like any house move, I need to make deliberate decision to move there. I need to make it my accustomed place to live, to develop habits so that hope becomes my default mode, my habitual way of being and reacting. I need to practise hope. Just like my house, it is going to take effort, energy and time.
But the reason I feel at home, that I feel I belong somewhere, is because I know I am loved there. So most of all I need to routinely remember the One who loves me, the One to put my hope in.
Vaclav Havel said: ‘Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.’ Hope in God does not mean that my life will be easy or perfect but it will give meaning to my life. It will remind me that I am never alone or unloved. It will give me purpose and stamina whatever happens.
“Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” (Isaiah 40.30-31)
“We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed…Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day…So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4. 8,9,16,18)
Now, where did I put those tent pegs?