This week we’re reading these chapters about hope in Everyday Sacrament:
- “Parenting Toward Possibility”
- “The Spirit’s Flashes”
- “To My Children, Called in Childhood” (psst: if you haven’t yet gotten your copy of the book, you can read this chapter here)
We hear a lot about hope during Advent. It’s a season of anticipation. Eager hearts looking toward Christmas. Prayers of peace, hymns of encouragement. Waiting in joyful hope becomes our refrain.
Especially on the brink of December, when we’re not yet tired of snow or stressed by shopping, it’s easy to hum along with hope.
But hope is a hard thing, isn’t it?
This week’s chapters speak to different sides of hope. The audacious prospect of bringing a child into the world (and into the church). The comforting presence of God in daily moments of despair (or distraction). The faith-fueled dreams of what (and whom) our children are called to be.
But if I’m being honest, I’ve been dangerously short on hope this year.
Of course it’s not surprising. We hoped against hope that our daughters would be healed, saved, here and alive. They are none of the above.
Can we still believe that hope does not disappoint?
Then there’s this weary mess of a world we’re floundering in. All years are hard, but this year felt grim. Bleak. Hope in scarce supply, as if optimism’s stores were plundered and only empty shelves now stare back, mocking.
What does it mean to hope against all evidence to the contrary?
Hope is a tough stance to take: to wake up every morning with openness and love and faith that good can come, even when all signs point south. But Advent nudges gently that hope is still the way that leads toward Christ, however wild and wandering that way may be.
My children – all of them, here and beyond – have taught me that hope is entirely different from what I believed as a child. Now I think hope is impossible and prophetic and life-giving and necessary. Now I think it is the only way to live in the world as a Christian, to keep choosing faith over despair.
Hope is humbling and hard and holy. It is Advent’s gift.
. . .
Let’s chat over wine or chocolate – like any good book club!
- What does hope mean to you?
With apologies to the good poet of Amherst, I’ve always hated Emily Dickinson’s image of “Hope is the thing with feathers – / that perches in the soul”. Too flimsy, too fragile to be a bird. I don’t want hope to be crushed like thin bones.
When I was in junior high, I devoured In These Girls, Hope Is A Muscle (which, parenthetically, remains a fantastic piece of literary journalism on high school sports). Hope as flesh and blood, meaty and muscly – that metaphor captured my imagination. You have to build strength for hope to work properly. And this is the agonizing exercise I’m doing these days: trying to build up more hope in atrophied muscles.
- Where do you find hope in the world these days?
My children. You readers. The relentless resilience of grace. People who rally and refuse to capitulate to despair. One last pink rose that survived Thanksgiving snowstorms. Dawn, every morning.
- What are your hopes for Advent?
Peace and quiet. I cleared wide swaths of space in our December calendar like a snowplow driver white-knuckling a blizzard. I have zero aspirations, only hopes for peace and quiet.
How about you? Leave your thoughts on hope in the comments below!
. . .
And if you want to read more about hoping…
- Here’s an essay for Notre Dame’s FaithND on the death of my older brother and what he taught me about hope.