Making Our Way in the World Today (3/4)

a bottle of water

Bob hates Hope. Bob is the name I’ve given to that negative voice inside my head that tells me lies. Maybe you don’t have a Bob. I do. You can call it insecurity, shame, or even past trauma. I call it Bob. And he really hates Hope.

If Hope were another voice inside, it’s the one constantly encouraging me to never give up. But Hope’s voice is soft, like that of a child, speaking almost with a whisper. Bob’s baritone barking makes her hard to hear much of the time. But thankfully Hope refuses to stay silent.

Here’s the thing about Hope. She is never flippant. She never ignores reality. She doesn’t offer easy answers. She demands authenticity. And she believes with every square inch of her being, that despair will not have the final word. And she’s going to fight with everything she has to help me believe that too. She’ll fight for you too if you let her.

The poet Emily Dickinson described hope as a bird perched in the soul whose song is most delightful when heard through the tempests of life. She writes:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me. 

Dickinson says Hope has never asked for even a crumb in return for all her warmth. I find that line beautiful though untrue. For me, Hope asks for a whole lot, like all of me. She calls me to step outside of myself, not to dip my toe in her waters, but to wholly immerse myself in them like a sweet baptism.

Some days Bob is just louder and more believable than Hope. Maybe that’s because Bob doesn’t demand much, just my soul, which he assures me is a satisfactory and sufficient exchange for all he has to offer. He likes it if I climb inside myself like a turtle, to run inside to a place of perceived safety where nothing and no one can get to me — especially Hope. He offers solitude as an echo chamber for my thoughts. He tells me Hope is risky, dangerous, unsafe. She will only hurt me, he says. She will only disappoint. He provides the dull comfort of minimal expectations. He woos with indifference.

King Solomon once wrote, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12). Bob will sometimes speak this verse to me. “You don’t want to feel heart sick, do you,” he pleads. “Then let Hope die,” he tells me. “Bury Hope deep and send flowers to the funeral . . . that’s the only way your heart can really be safe.”

Still, Hope reminds me that to turn away from her, even though temporarily easier, is to miss out on life. The rich imagery of a Tree of Life pervades the pages of Scripture, showing up at both the beginning and the ending — in Genesis and Revelation. This biblical panoramic reminds us that Hope has the first and final word. We live in the in-between where Bob is the one holding the microphone, standing in the spotlight.

But there’s a little blue bird perched in my soul singing a very different song. Can you hear it? I can.

Please don’t get lost in my metaphors and personifications. I’m feeling a little poetic. Here’s the thing, Hope is a gift we’ve all been given, but we have to listen. She’s singing to you even now.

We have to tune our ears to hear her soft voice, knowing one day it will grow so loud — resounding, reverberating, through every blade of grass and ray of sunshine — that Bob himself and all the powers of Hell won’t be able to silence her. All of creation will join in as a cosmic choir testifying to a hope that, as Paul explains, doesn’t “lead to disappointment . . . for we know how dearly God loves us” (Romans 5:5).

Faith gives us roots. Hope gives us wings. Love gives us earth and sky, a place for becoming and belonging. Let’s use these three gifts, faith, hope, and love, to their full measure as we learn to move and love in a world filled with heartache and glory.

Part One

Part Two (Faith)

Part Three (Hope)

Part Four (Love)