The Inevitability of Hope: Esperanza…

In her beautiful novel Gilead, Marilynne Robinson’s protagonist astutely notes, “We are never out of light, we just turn around in it.” David said it too in the 139th Psalm:


“Where can I go from your spirit, where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I make my bed in the depth, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light become night around me’, even the darkness will not be dark to you, the night will shine as the day, for darkness is as light to you.”


Such statements would seem to describe our existence on earth. We cannot escape the light and love and presence of God, and yet we dwell in the valley of the shadow, where we cannot yet fully enter in. Though I cannot escape His love, I am also unable to avoid waiting for its full realization. To be able to enter fully into the presence of peace one day is our hope; hope is essential to life. I remember feeling caught off guard once as I read Paul’s observations on hope in Romans 5:3-5:


Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope; and hope does not disappoint us, because God has filled us with His love by the power of His Holy Spirit.”


I was in my early 20’s, and processing several years of experiences that had been traumatic for various reasons. The passage struck me because I felt jaded, and in my cynicism, had begun to assume hope could only be the product of naivité, something generally found at the outset of experience, but not at its end. This verse asserts the opposite: Hope comes as the fruit of suffering, perseverance and character; if hope is founded on the true love of God, it cannot lead to disappointment. As Paul says later in Romans, the eighth chapter, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God.”
It encourages me to think that though there are times I might not always feel hopeful, I can trust that it is still a possibility of whatever process I am in. In Spanish, the verb for “to hope” is the exact same as both the verbs for “to wait” and “to expect”. Though in English, the terms are nuanced, when viewed as they are understood in Spanish, it seems true we cannot separate them. “Who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we cannot see, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:25). Paul also felt the terms and their practices were inseparable. Esperanza: hope and expectation, inextricably intertwined. If waiting is unavoidable, perhaps too, expecting and hoping are inevitable: “We are never out of light, we just turn around in it.”

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