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Posts Tagged ‘hope’

There once was a handsome young man named David.  What happened to me through knowing him probably had something to do with growing up – with turning 20 and getting my own car and being exposed more to the general world than this homeschooler was used to.  He walked into my life when I was 19 years old and I immediately went into such a daze that I didn’t even remember his name, but I remembered his smile.  We found ourselves shortly thereafter attending the same Bible study.  I was so thrilled to see him there, and that he gave my elbow a little pinch when he recognized me, that I felt sick the rest of the night…  C’est la vie.

Because I met David, I realized I wasn’t 16 anymore.  And not-16-year-old women shouldn’t be looking for the qualities of a 16-year-old boy in a man they’re thinking of dating, or marrying.  I began to remake my list, but I didn’t even know what being a grown-up meant.  What was it to be an adult?  How was it different being an adult, marriage-ready man from an adult, marriage-ready woman?

Responsibility, a sober view of the world, selflessness – these are some of the traits I came to realize were important.  Discerning them wasn’t as simple as checking off a list like: no, he doesn’t drink; yes, he has a job; yes, he says he’s a Christian.  A drink here or there doesn’t prevent realizing that we get one chance at this life and that everything we do has consequences.  (At the time, I was met with a lot of young men who didn’t take the consequences of alcohol very seriously.  But they were breaking into my mind the possibilities.)  In David’s case, irresponsible men can have jobs.  They use them to fund and further irresponsible lives.  And though true Christianity has to do with imitating Christ, who made Himself nothing, saying we belong to the Church is only a tiny part of participation in that kind of life.  People can lie.  People can be deceived.

Because I met David, I learned to be patient in developing relationships.  I wanted more, more, more of people whose company I enjoyed.  I wanted to rush, rush, rush to see where it was leading with this man.  But it had to be OK some weeks at Bible study to just see him and ask how he was, waiting for the deeper conversation here and there.  That way I was learning more about him than just my urgent questions.  When you’re friends with someone, you get all of them, not just the parts whose relevance you can foresee.

Because I met David, I had my first opportunity to really make the choice between going with my feelings and going with my principles.  I had been in a low place spiritually, but this choice began to wake me up.

Because I met David, I discovered how sick hope could make me.  I hoped the charming bright-eyed conversationalist would line up with my principles – if not right away, then later (*soon* later, but I didn’t know about assuming “soon” back then).

Because I met David, I began to face some facts about marriage, among others: that it would be two broken people working together, helping each other.  I was still inspired by the idea of matrimony, but I started to realize that I wouldn’t marry a perfect man, that I didn’t deserve one either, and that being good myself didn’t guarantee that the man I married would always have been good.

Because I met David, I realized that the call God makes on Christians is not, “go be friends with potential husbands and men with no risk to your own heart, but be sure to steer clear of anyone not interested or unworthy” – no, God says, “love your neighbor” and especially to love those in the Church.  So even though David chose not to pursue me seriously, and even though I was disappointed, and even though I was still attracted to him – I couldn’t just run away.  I had to keep being his friend, keep desiring good for him, while also surrendering my plans for him.

Because I met David, I still kind of believe that I have beautiful eyes and a great smile (particularly when inspired by a man’s attention).  I took a break for a while from being on the watch for a potential husband.  I realized that even playing it safe with relationships can hurt.  I stopped believing in fairy tales and started believing in love.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  And the earth was without form, and void…

One of the things I love about how God created the world is that He both created from nothing, spoke things straight into existence, – and also formed things.  This is something true of God.  He is abundantly powerful, and everything has its source in Him.  He is the Alpha.  And also, He is a God of life, of living and growing and progressing and moving.  He is the Omega, both Beginning and End.  He is the eternal I AM, but He created a world of experience – not just existence.

When God created the world, He began a story.  When God created Adam, Adam was fully formed and when God breathed into him the breath of life, that is when Adam became a living being.  But God started with Adam a dominion, a mandate, a command, a purpose.  That purpose is being unfurled still, across the generations, covenant to covenant.  Each life is like this, too.  God forms us in our mothers’ wombs.  He begins our stories, and we don’t come into this life “finished” or complete.  Our purposes are yet unfulfilled.

I don’t always like it, that God takes time.  That God begins with seeds that must sprout and grow and blossom before they bear fruit – that is hard for me to wait on.  But it is beautiful.  It is glorious in that we get to partake of imitating God, of acting and producing.

These thoughts coalesced as I thought about Pope Francis’s recent comments about the nature of evolution.  I don’t know the intent of his comments; I’m pretty sure I disagree with some parts of them.  Maybe he was pointing out that even evolution and the big bang don’t have an explanation for the beginning of things.  But the concept of evolution: that things once started do tend to develop – this is not inconsistent with what we know of God.  He starts things that change.  “He created beings and allowed them to develop according to the internal laws that He gave to each one, so that they were able to develop and to arrive and [sic] their fullness of being,” said Pope Francis, “… [God is] the Creator who gives being to all things.”

I don’t believe God started the world with the Big Bang.  I don’t believe He started humanity from a single-celled organism in a primal soup.  Maybe, though, the appeal is for all of us, evolutionist or creationist, to recognize this truth about our world as God has set us in it: that we’re progressing towards the end of the story.  And, as Pope Francis went on to say, “Therefore the scientist, and above all the Christian scientist*, must adopt the approach of posing questions regarding the future of humanity and of the earth, and, of being free and responsible, helping to prepare it and preserve it, to eliminate risks to the environment of both a natural and human nature. But, at the same time, the scientist must be motivated by the confidence that nature hides, in her evolutionary** mechanisms, potentialities for intelligence and freedom to discover and realise, to achieve the development that is in the plan of the Creator. So, while limited, the action of humanity is part of God’s power and is able to build a world suited to his dual corporal and spiritual life; to build a human world for all human beings and not for a group or a class of privileged persons. This hope and trust in God, the Creator of nature, and in the capacity of the human spirit can offer the researcher a new energy and profound serenity…”

To God be all glory.

*I suggest this applies to humans, to Christians, and to Christian scientists; it is not exclusive to researchers (see Genesis 1:28)

**I am not sure whether in the context, the term “evolutionary” is exclusively referring to the scientific theory of evolution.  I am inspired only by the aspect of evolution in this definition: “any process of formation or growth; development”.

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“I remember every detail. The Germans wore grey. You wore blue.”

“Yes. I put that dress away. When the Germans march out, I’ll wear it again.”

 

~ Casablanca

 

One of the things I love about Ilsa is that she is a character.  We see only these few glimpses, and it seems like she is always dependent and following, but what kind of woman captures Rick’s heart and inspires Laszlo?  It’s the woman who wears blue the day the Germans march into Paris.  She isn’t mourning, isn’t hiding.  We know she was afraid.  But she was celebrating hope, I think – a confidence that the city-conquering Nazis would not be victorious in the end – not if brave, faithful men and women stood against them. 

 

But.  She has put that dress away.  She will wear it again when the Germans leave.  That will be a day also for celebrating hope – hope fulfilled. 

 

It would not be right for her to get the dress out early, before the Nazis are defeated.  Doing so would turn the original defiant hope into an image of how naïve she had been – despairing retrospection. 

 

It would not be right for her to get rid of the dress.  That would be like throwing hope away. 

 

Do you have anything you have “put away”?  Do you laugh when you promise that you will wear it again? 

 

To God be all glory, 

Lisa of Longbourn

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The weekend before Christmas I attended a holiday concert.  The band leader introduced one song, sung in another language, saying it was so sad he didn’t want to tell us what it was about.  My spirit breathed in the still moment, lullaby melody haunting the sanctuary.  It felt so right, that amid the songs of joy and hope and triumph there would be a few that take time to sense the sadness. 

 

A little girl looks at the wise men figurines from the nativity set, and tells me part of the Christmas story.  She says that the mean king wanted the kings from the East to tell him if they found the star-heralded infant they sought.  He didn’t want to worship the Boy, like he said; he wanted to assassinate Him.  And my little friend and I keep talking about the story, part we usually leave out of advent calendars and candlelight services: that though God’s plan went forward in the family exiled to Egypt, many little boys were slaughtered by Herod.  As prophesied in Jeremiah, Rachel wept for her children, and would not be comforted. 

 

There is hope.  And hope is terribly needed.  The world is dark.  Kings kill.  Babies die.  Sin persists.  Faith wanes.  The sadness is real.  And hope belongs there.  It doesn’t erase the pain; it sits with it in the dust, and then raises it up. 

 

Jesus weeps outside his friend’s tomb, before He calls him forth. 

 

I spend hours searching for Christmas laments.  I am intentional about seizing the wonder and beauty and joy arising from this Light come into the world.  But I relate to the burdening grief in this fallen place, sympathize with a bereft woman keening beneath the Christmas stars in Bethlehem.  Dear friends suffer also, personal events in their own stories not so far away as the homeland of David.  In Christmas there is a place for them, a place even for their aching.  I want to look at it.  I want to seek the whole truth unshrinking, though on my weary knees – and see the God who belongs there, too. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I resigned my job.  This happened over a month ago now.  For the first three weeks or so I decided not to work on discerning God’s will for my future.  I focused on God – lots and lots of praying needed to happen and partly motivated my choice to stop working two days a week.  And I focused on people. 

 

For three weeks now I’ve been living in November, the first month of the rest of my life when I’m supposed to be figuring out what else to do.  I’ve made some discoveries, like the need for about $90 in gas money each month or to dramatically cut back.  Friends have been in town and many will come and go from now through early January.  It is convenient to bend my schedule around others, and also to feel, by being at home, that I have time to accomplish things like dishes and laundry and cooking and other little projects here and there.  There are stacks of books waiting in my room for me to read.  Some of them are, I sense, rather important to whatever life God will call me to

Any

Day

Now.

 

Some friends are talking with me about what it means to LIVE in hope.  We see God working and we hope for what He will do next.  I try to keep myself open to the changes I pray for.  And we still want to live as God’s instruments right now.  We want eyes that are wide open to the work He is doing all around us, and the part He calls us to play.  How do we live content with the path God leads us on, the way God loves us, even though sometimes it feels incredibly slow or like being left behind (by everyone but God)? 

 

With these eyes opened to the God who grows people in His garden, I start to notice people who are un-miss-able.  They protrude into my life and I wonder what God wants me to do with them since I have no clue.  So I beg God for insight into the spiritual strengths and weaknesses of these people.  I cry out to be filled with God’s love for them.  My friends help me to understand what I see and hear and where I am failing to esteem others.

I keep on realizing so many things I have no clue about.  The times when God clearly leads me I rejoice, and I cling to those revelations with as much sightless faith as I can muster.  He faithfully provides all the assurance and help I really need to trust Him.  And I wait.  God hasn’t made everyone’s life a parable of waiting, but He keeps on blasting this theme through mine. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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God has had me thinking about suffering and persecution, again.  I’m going to be honest here; I don’t want to suffer.  Nope.  I don’t even want to be unhappy.  I want to have adventure, but I want to be able to push “stop” “eject” “rewind” and control the volume, too.  I know in my head that God uses suffering.  He makes us to know Him more, to be more like Him, to be refined from the worldly desires and crutches that keep us from the pure fire of desiring His glory.  He uses the way His people suffer (with grace and faith and rejoicing) to be a witness to the world.  But I’d still rather not go through it.  Part of me always insists that God could do those things in other ways.  He’s God.  He could do things differently.  But this is the way He has made the world, made us, written this story.  Jesus asked for another way, besides the cup of suffering.  Even Jesus went through the excruciating agony of the cross.  So it seems like God’s pretty committed to the suffering theme.  And it is actually a privilege to get to experience some things that Christ did.  This goes back to how we know Him more through suffering. 

 

Anyway, that’s the background:  I have suffered, though not much.  I know that God uses suffering.  I know it’s likely He isn’t done sending me through painful experiences. 

 

So when I’m coming up on the next part of my life, but I can’t see what’s going on, I start to seize with fear.  I get really afraid that it’s coming.  What I can’t see is something bad, something painful.  If people are keeping secrets from me, it’s probably because they’re handling things so dreadful that they are even trying to shield me, but it will affect me anyway, and everything will come out, and I will hurt.  Again. 

 

I don’t know exactly what to call this reaction.  It’s definitely fear.  And it is fueled deeply by distrust.  And what I ought to do in a situation like that is something completely different, and almost entirely absent.  On my best days I might be able to reason myself into a theology of faith: I should trust God.  I should know that He is doing good.  I should desire His glory in whatever way He wants to make it known.  But my feelings have never caught up. 

 

If I trusted Him, I would see a problem and rejoice with anticipation at how God is going to work it out.  Or I should be on the edge of my seat, maybe with my chest searing at the pain of it, maybe with tears stinging my eyes, but watching all the same for the way God is going to explode forth with a revelation of His glory (even if He doesn’t do what I would consider “working it out”). 

 

That’s what I’m hoping to see in my life someday.  I figure, objectively, this means I’ll go through a lot of hard things.  I have practice surrendering control, clinging to God when things don’t make sense and I feel so hurt that it borders betrayal.  And I think God will build on those lessons to move me deeper towards His heart, to form in me a heart of joyful trust. 

 

It’s nice, I guess, to have something you know you’re not good at, but you’re working towards. 

 

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:  By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;  And patience, experience; and experience, hope:  And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” ~ Romans 5:1-5

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I read once that Tolkien wrote with the pessimism of the pagan poets [1].  They uphold honor in despair, dying well, the heroic quest at the cost of losing everything you love.  But I read Tolkien and see hope scribed into every chapter.  No light, whimsical child’s hope: Tolkien’s hope is not ignorance of all things capable of clouding the good.  It’s a “fool’s hope,” [2] where anyone can see that in all likelihood, if things go on as they are, the fool will be disappointed.  In Tolkien, the fools know themselves to be fools.

 

Elven-King Fingolfin’s story weighs on the side of hopelessness.  The Silmarillion describes him as “fey” [3] when he challenges Melkor himself, living up to the epic’s heroic virtues.  What hope has an elf against a Vala?  But the Vala ought to be contended, resisted, fought.  Though the high king of the Noldor (elves) finally fell, his fight was not without effect.  The Dark Lord Melkor limped forever after.

 

At first reading, it seems that Aragorn commends this sort of despairing courage when he instructs his friends, “There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark.” [4]  But Gandalf, the wizard who knows his life-encompassing hope is foolish, lends a bit of insight early on.  Recognizing he is a fool, he embraces humility.  Do you hear it in Gandalf’s words? “Despair, or folly?  It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt.  We do not.  It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope.” [5]  He acknowledges that he may not have all the facts.  Indeed, thinking that he knew what the end would be was the prideful downfall of Denethor, who let his enemy select the facts he discovered, and so turn him to despair, and madness.  Tolkien’s works regularly discourage the assumption that we know the future.

 

He also discourages despair.  I know it doesn’t seem true.  There are some pivotal scenes driven by characters that rashly pursue death and glory.  Aragorn is accused of it when he takes the Paths of the Dead, but that perspective is refuted.  Though the way had been shut for long ages, the time had come.  Such is the way of hope.  Things go on in a certain way until the due time, and then change springs upon the world.

 

Perhaps most potent is the image of grey-eyed Dernhelm.  The warrior’s silent, calm assurance going in search of death chilled Merry.  And it awakens our empathy.  Why shouldn’t it?  Who hasn’t felt that life is going from bad to worse, and decided to rush forward to the end instead of waiting to be burned with the house?  I think maybe Tolkien intended to carry us along with this character, so that we could reach the same end.  Dernhelm was proud, seeking glory before duty, though demonstrating loyal love to King Theoden by staying close to him.  And glory was achieved.  And darkness did descend on the desperate hero.  Even as Dernhelm revealed herself as Eowyn, golden hair glittering in the storm-piercing sunrise like a figment of hope; she was cast down, poisoned, and taken for dead.  [6]

 

But now we come to it:  Tolkien’s hope is the kind that stands further and deeper than all those things – than despair and darkness and loss.  He knew about a resurrection hope, about seeds bringing forth fruit after they have fallen into the ground and died.  Maybe he knew that fruit is more glorious than merely putting an end to your enemies.  His hope embraces grief.  It accepts hard things.  Good is not determined by the outcome, but by some transcendent standard.  And this hope joyfully trusts that there is someOne good who may intervene yet.

 

For Eowyn woke, and repented her destructive ideals.  Day came again.  Darkness was not unescapable.  Faramir described the moment, “I do not know what is happening.  The reason of my waking mind tells me that great evil has befallen and we stand at the end of days.  But my heart says nay; and all my limbs are light, and a hope and joy are come to me that no reason can deny.  … in this hour I do not believe that any darkness will endure!” [7]  So Eowyn moved and married, healed and tended gardens. [8]  Her story is a fuller exposition of the transformation the Fellowship underwent in Moria.  They lost their way and lost their guide.  They had descended black depths and awakened demons so that they lost hope.  But on the field high on the mountain slopes, “they came beyond hope under the sky and felt the wind on their faces.” [9]

 

[1] Hopeless Courage by Loren Rosson, III (http://www.hollywoodjesus.com/lord_of_the_rings_guest_03.htm)

[2] The Return of the King: “The Siege of Gondor” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 797)

[3] See etymology of “fey” at http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=fey&allowed_in_frame=0

[4] The Two Towers: “The Riders of Rohan” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 430)

[5] The Fellowship of the Ring: “The Council of Elrond” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 262)

[6] The Return of the King: “The Battle of the Pelennor Fields” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 823-824)

[7] The Return of the King: “The Steward and the King” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 941)

[8] The Return of the King: “The Steward and the King” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 943-944)

[9] The Fellowship of the Ring: “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 323)

 

See also, The Silmarillion: “Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin” by JRR Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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