I look around at Christmas displays and see the words: “Hope”, “Joy”, and “Peace”, and I wonder - where does your hope come from? Hope is one of the foundational elements of The Torch. Hope is the reason Sarah was able to drag herself through the living Hell of homelessness and abandonment, and come out on the other side ready to help others. Hope is the reason I kept moving forward when I had no place to call home - choking back fear and loneliness, and withstanding judgment and hatred from others which was based on false rumors and lies designed to break me. Sarah and I never gave up the hope that life could get better, and that we could show other people that life CAN get better, and that there is always...
When I talk to people about hope, and observe our society and this world – it isn’t hard to see where people place their hope. Often, hope is pinned firmly to a dream job. We search for, and strive to get to the place where we can finally land that one job which will provide so much for us. We see the job as the key to wealth, prestige, self-esteem, and a better lifestyle. And, undoubtedly, the right job can often provide many of those things. But pinning our hopes on a job can leave us empty in several ways. Companies can be downsized, and jobs can be lost. When that happens, hope can be lost, as well. On the flip side - sometimes the job is everything we hoped it would be - and it brings all those good advantages, which do make life somewhat easier. But, once that is achieved, what is there left to hope for? Another job? A better job? I have known many people who found the job was not enough to sustain a hopeful heart.
Sometimes people pin their hope on other people. They think as long as they are in a relationship with this or that person, they will always be cared for. They trust they will never be let down, or left alone, and that that other person will always protect and love them without fail. Pinning hope on people would work if people were not people. I don’t care how awesome you feel the person you have pinned your hope to is - inevitably, human beings cannot reside on a pedestal, and they will come crashing down at some point, unable to be a sustaining source of hope.
Working in the schools, as I have for many years, I have noticed sometimes parents pin their hopes on their children. Kids are pushed to be the best athletes, the best scholars, the best musicians. They are encouraged to be the coolest or most popular students. Many times, the most driven young people are striving to achieve their parents’ unrealized dreams, and often this goes unnoticed or even unintended. But what happens to hope when children simply cannot fulfill their parent's aspirations? I had a conversation with a very upset dad many years ago. His son had several pretty significant disabilities, which were not diagnosed until he was in elementary school. The heartbroken dad was mourning the fact that his boy would never be the hockey player he always wanted to raise. His hope was crushed, and he struggled to find a way out of depression.
And what about when children’s dreams and plans for life don’t match up with parental hopes? I was guilty of that with my youngest daughter, beautiful Maddy. When she was starting her Senior year in high school, she approached me with the idea that she had a different plan for her last year than the one I had in mind - which was the one all her siblings had followed. We argued about it for several days. Then, one morning, I woke up thinking about her, and I had to face the fact that I wasn’t considering Maddy at all in the argument. It was MY hope that I was concerned about; I needed to unpin my hope for her future to allow her to follow her hope and set HER course.
Sometimes people pin hope on Christmas and the holidays. They dream about giving or getting the perfect Christmas gift. They plan the most delicious meal and think about singing Christmas carols as Grandma accompanies on the piano. There is a joyful spirit in the air as they contemplate family and friends with the tenderness that shows up with the season. They believe the Hallmark Christmas is surely within reach. But then, Christmas is over, the shine of the gifts dulls, work and normal daily life resume - and the bills start rolling in. All the sparkling promise that accompanied December 1st tends to flee with the advent of the new year. And where does that leave people? They end up searching for another location on which to pin their hope.
Many, many, years ago, I became disillusioned with people, and jobs, and money and education. I hit rock-bottom and felt utterly hopeless. No matter what direction I tried to steer my thoughts, I could not get the fire of hope to rekindle. It wasn’t until I chose to pin my hope on God, and the promises He makes in the Bible, that I discovered a solid foundation for hope. God's Bible is amazing.
There is a book called “The Green Machine”. It’s a kids' book I used to read to my two oldest children. We checked it out from the library nearly every single week. It is written with a catchy rhyming pattern and we thought it was so much fun to read. It was published in 1969, and, a few years ago, I decided to find it and buy it. Guess what? It is really rare to find and quite expensive to buy.
Compare that to the Bible. Over two thousand years old. Always a best seller. And it is God’s letter to us. Available even in Walmart. The Bible is not going anywhere. I pinned my hope to passages like:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
And when I come to those times in my life when people, and jobs, and education, and money, and everything else in this world lets me down - my hope sustains. Because what I hope for and believe in and live for is not pinned to anything in this world that can change in a moment. My hope this Christmas, and all the time, is directly pinned to God - and He has never, ever, let me down.