Thursday, October 29, 2015

A little more hope

Me at Kingsport Beach, Nova Scotia
Last week Dean and I were on the East Coast for a few days of leadership meetings for the Atlantic Vineyard Churches. It was great to arrive a day early to have some down time: wandering around the Halifax harbour, driving through the Annapolis Valley, stopping at Kingsport Beach, and chilling in front of the fireplace in our historic Bed and Breakfast, originally an army barracks. It was also a real treat to see friends we had not encountered in years and catch up a bit with folks who are dear to our hearts.
I so appreciated the tone of the get-togethers which were focused on gathering together over food and telling stories and praying for each other and worshiping our great God together and listening to the still, small voice of God for each other and not so much on hearing a lot of speakers give talks, great as that can be. On the Friday night, I was sitting meditatively on a couch during worship when I felt that God was offering to teach me how to hope again. Now, I think of myself as a pretty hopeful person in general, but if I am honest with myself, my hope is a bit rusty these days. Many times I find myself retreating to a pretty safe place of faith; a place of careful, tentative prayers. I ask God to heal, transform, and upend our society, but expect little to change. I believe that the supernatural intervention of Jesus is going to happen, just not today, and a teaspoon of caution seems necessary to avoid being disappointed time and time again. I am especially aware of the danger of assuring people that God will bring about this change or that change, and then see them sink into despair when nothing appears to happen. I would never want to foist that type of delusional faith on anyone. By default, then, I hope for very little. So, yeah, my hope might be a little rusty. My response that Friday night to the divine invitation to hope was Yes, God. Teach me what hope is.

Being a student, the first thing I did was look up the definition. The Greek word for hope is elpis and it refers to confidence, trust, expectation. Confidence is a hard one for me. Do I have confidence in God? Yes, but often that translates to just speaking well of God (confidence in his goodness, love, grace, forgiveness) and not confidence that God can disrupt life as we know it. Basically, I am talking about miracles. I have been witness to few of them, but know well the transformative power of slow, faithful love and surrender over time. So that is my go-to hope: that all this will not be in vain, that it is all heading somewhere good. I don't mean to diminish long-term, gradual change, but that's not the only dynamic we see in the ministry of Jesus.

As I continued to read the definition of elpis, I came across its origin: from elpo: to anticipate, welcome. And then (light bulb) I knew what vibrant, healthy hope could look like for me: I could welcome the breath of the Holy Spirit, the touch of the Father, and the power of Jesus' death and resurrection by making a generous space. I did not have to forcefully declare anything, nor name it and claim it, or do any of that other stuff sometimes associated with spiritual authority which, to be honest, always seems slightly disingenuous when I try it. If hope is being welcoming, then I can prepare a place for the movement of the Spirit. I can look out the window for the first glimpse of Jesus (or climb a tree like Zaccheus). I can open the door when Jesus knocks. I can expect that in every situation, I will be surrounded by the God of love and grace.

I admit that, at times, I am a doubting, cynical, negative host. I brace myself for the worst, ready to accept a scenario where most of the invited guests will probably not show up and the food I have prepared will be inadequate and tasteless. I am ready to be disappointed. I half expect the party I have planned to be lackluster and boring, I assume that at some point in the evening I will discover a stain or a rip in my clothes, and someone is sure to break something or spill food on the furniture. As the party progresses (and indeed, far more people come than I expected), I see the dishes pile up and think about how much work there will be in the aftermath. Less people is less mess, really, so I start to resent the guests and their jovial attitude.

Oh, how small and safe my heart can be. How much it resists enlarging. How it clings to safety and comfort. How little it dares to hope. How afraid it is of disappointment. So I ask the Lord of hospitality to teach me to have a welcoming spirit. To say, Yes, come Holy Spirit. You are welcome here. We have been looking and waiting for you. We have prepared a place for you. Come and change us. Come and live in us. Come and bring your healing, your gifts, your wisdom, your life. We open our arms. We run to greet you. Welcome!

"Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you." - Psalm 37:9

1 comment:

Shelley said...

yes, amen, and me too.