Hope For Beginners
Now, when I offer a friend a drink and she refuses, I begin to wonder if she is pregnant. It is an intimate thing, and so I hang back from asking, at first. These are the women who have worried, not over when or why, but with if. There have been miscarriages and diagnoses and complications.
For some, there are children, or a child, already. They have seen the miracle of life created in the womb. Some of them have confided that they feel a little guilty hoping to see that miracle again.
I like to carry hope for people. It is often so much lighter than carrying my own. It is easy for me to imagine that it will not be disappointed, not for this person that I love.
It is easier than to suppose that my hope will come to fruition as well. I spent yesterday morning unexpectedly in an evangelical church, not unlike the ones of my youth. I swayed in a darkened room on a bright, sunny day, and sung some of the words. My mind would not stop whirring.
Perhaps distance is always needed before clarity can dawn. Perhaps the time and space has been enough at last, but I saw and heard something in those prayers and songs and words of explanation that I'd heard often but never questioned. We sang, and I was struck by words I'd always belted without a second thought, sometimes in consecutive songs. "I'm nothing without you."
It's true enough, as things go, I suppose. But the problem for me is that it's entirely hypothetical. I stop singing, and the words of Psalm 139 float into my conscious thought as I begin to cry.
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
I may be nothing without God, but where would I go to be without God?
The musicians pray for strength to reach, and for Jesus to come into each corner of our lives. They pray as though He is not already there.
At my core, I am still trying to prove myself. I am still trying to do my part so that my hopes will not be disappointed. I will hold up my end of the yoke, if it kills me.
It's easy for me to get so caught up in all of the tribulation (the things that I weather and traverse) leading to hope in Romans that I easily miss the reason that hope does not disappoint: it's because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:1-5).
Now, I can see that these statements don't match the Jesus that I have come to know. They are close, so close, but they do not tell of the grace and true love. They don't tell the full story of Who it is that does the reaching.
I may hold the hopes of friends and loved ones, but I am not the only one who does so. I have longed believed that it is God who opens and closes wombs in times and for reasons that I don't understand. When I watch a friend waiting and hoping for a baby who has not yet come, I don't assume that the baby will never come. I don't assume that my friend will receive some sort of cosmic consolation prize. I wait and I watch and I pray. I anticipate.
Sometimes, when I think about my singleness, and my hope of being married, I think exactly the opposite. Yesterday morning in church, I couldn't help but think about the patterns of my youth which haunt and inform my theology. How I want my theology to be a static and unchanging thing, never needing revision (at least, the part of me that loves to be right, wants that). But, another part of me remembers that the word itself means "study of God" at the roots, and I realize that it will always change and shift. I will never know the whole.
I have held tightly to a theology of scarcity in my life, forgetting completely about those cattle on thousands of hills. I have forgotten about the people that God brings and calls and grows. Like Elijah in the wilderness, after the slaughter of the prophets of Baal, I have said aloud that I am the only one left.
I have continued to start from a deficit that doesn't exist.
I have chosen to sing about being nothing, wondering if God could ever forgive and welcome me, when all of that has been done, settled and made right.
I am missing the party.
I'm sure much of what gave me the eyes to see yesterday, was my new church. In that place, often filled with light from the lovely open windows, I never feel less than. I am welcome and loved. I belong.
The task of God's people has always been to hope and rejoice at the same time. We look forward to wondrous things, and we thank God for what already is. I want this to flood my view of singleness and longing for marriage.
I don't want to minimize the pain and the difficulty of this part of my life, but I also don't want to obscure the blessing that comes from each one of those thousand hills.
And when I pray, which I do, some mornings in my car, with the radio off and tears in my eyes, about singleness and the cocktail of emotion that comes along with it, changing recipe from day to day, I want to pray from a place of safety, knowing that my hope is safe, suspended in Love.