A few weeks ago, I posted this on Facebook with this caption: “This isn’t that inspiring to me….it just lets me know that people don’t know how far the moon is from the nearest star….which is the sun. #fail“
That was me being cynical. (Well, it was at least 50% sincere frustration at the obvious orientation problems of this otherwise motivational quote.) I don’t like shooting for the moon because, in my experience, I am not going to land among the stars, I’m going to land in the airless void of space, and my naive dreams and I will suffocate to death.
But I made a decision this week. I decided to hope. Now, I have hoped before. I hope all the time, actually. I hope the meals I cook will turn out well, and I hope I have hours at work during the week. I hope I will get to see my friends during the weekend, and I hope I won’t get caught in a summer rainstorm without an umbrella.
But that’s not the kind of hope I’m deciding to practice. I decided to hope for some big stuff, like a husband and a good job. That may not seem big to anyone else, but it’s huge to me, because if I don’t intentionally hope, I believe I’ll never have those or any other beautiful things. You see, I’ve grown accustomed to being cynical over the past couple of years. Things were so bad before that it hurt to even think about it getting better because of the crushing dread that they never would. Sometimes hope would slip into my dreams, and I would wake from dreaming a dream about a happy life with tears in my eyes because the dream had thrown the painful barb of hope into my subconscious, and my waking mind knew better than to hope, because life was never as good as your dreams.
Or so I have let myself think. This week, I have decided to do something that parts of me think is crazy. I have decided to hope in spite of the risks. Hope comes with some high risks, though. Disappointment is a dangerous consequence of hope when you have a history of debilitating depression. Hope isn’t a chance, then; it’s certainly a long fall off a high cliff when you are used to disappointment. You expect the worst and never bet on anything else because the risk is too great and the price is too high.
Well, I hadn’t realized until a day or two ago how comfortable I have become with this arrangement of hoping for little and getting little in return. God has been taking care of me, my depression in gone, my mind is clear, but my habits of mind are the same. I still don’t put a lot on hope. When I read the Bible and hear about all of the beautiful things God has for me, my mind automatically begins to calculate the risk involved in hoping to see God manifest his abundant goodness to me. Convinced by the numbers my mind runs, I back away from extravagant hope in favor of “more prudent” portions of mild optimism.
But what am I doing to my faith if I keep squashing hope? “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” but I think that under the circumstances, without hope, it is impossible to have faith (Hebrews 11:6). I’m shooting myself in the foot by not letting myself hope for the things God has promised me, which means that by definition, I don’t have faith for them. I’m tired of killing my hopes so that they don’t hurt me, and having nothing to show for my life. I’m tired of not taking a chance on God when he promised me so much in his word.
So that’s the decision I have made: to practice extravagant hope. I am going to fire cynicism as my heart’s body guard and stop keeping hope in a damp corner of my soul away from the light. I am going to hope in God, and hope for good, and bear what disappointments may come. They’ve already started coming, but I’m betting that hanging in there is worth it, because I know God is for me, and that alone is a reason to get my hopes up.