I’m spending this week and next at my alma mater, beginning a graduate studies program in writing. This has been my dream the last couple years; it’s a big part of what has given me hope for the future. When I write, there’s a sense of purpose, almost as if it’s the way God has gifted me to be able to share journeys in community. Now, I’m wondering if I’m in the right place or doing the right thing, if I really have it in me, if it will be too much for me physically. Am I being too self-critical, or do I need to pay attention to the heavy criticism of my work from my classmates and teachers? I came to learn and grow of course, expecting it would be a challenge, but right now I’m wondering if I even have a small grain of talent that will allow me to cultivate and plant even one small seed that will bear fruit. Is my hope misfounded?
I know that hope can only be sustained if it is placed in God alone. He’s the only One that can fulfill it. In Romans 5:5, the apostle Paul states: “Hope does NOT disappoint us, for God has poured out His love into our hearts by the power of His Holy Spirit.” Our hope is His love. I know from experience that sometimes He allows things to feel dead and buried until hope is anchored in Him alone. Sometimes, He brings new life to my buried hopes and dreams; sometimes, He requires I leave them permanently at the foot of the cross.
Growing up, my mom often told me, “Don’t get your hopes up too high.” It was very wise advice from my mother, who knows my tendencies to “fly on the wings of anticipation, then crash down into the pit of despair” (Anne of Avonlea, film by Dreamworks). I’ve crashed in disappointment more times than I can count; those memories now keep me from beginning to hope. As I’ve gained life experience, and admittedly become cynical, I’ve often thought of hope as a naïve quality. It has seemed to me to be something I had in excess early in my journey, yet a quality that’s very scarce in the present.
Paul has an interesting commentary on hope in Romans 5:3-4: “And we know that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance character, and character hope.” Is it possible that instead of hope being and elusive emotion confined to youth and naïveté, it is instead a part of character in the spiritual life that results from the discipline of perseverance in suffering?” I can often see God developing it in my life; sometimes, I can’t. But this thought on hope…it gives me hope. God’s Holy Spirit is loving on mine, giving me the ability to persevere day by day. It’s He who will make me full of hope: He will help me live in it and be consumed by it. Hope is the end result, and this…this is just the beginning.