Desmond Tutu said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
You don’t get out of bed in the morning without hope. We have hope in many things. Hope in God, hope in family, hope our efforts will bear fruit, hope we’ll find that perfect someone, hope we’ll overcome a sickness, hope that life holds beauty, hope the toilet won’t back up, hope our kids will live well, hope we get the job, hope we get pregnant, hope we don’t get pregnant, hope we’ll lose 10 lbs.…hope is the reason we keep on keepin on. But what happens when you hit those patches, the dissolving of a relationship, the terminal diagnosis, the loss of a job, severe bullying, despair and overwhelming self-criticism for another failure, and hope gets up and walks out of the room?
A few years ago a friend separated from her husband. She moved to a new town, she started doing emotional work and building a new community around her, but her hope ebbed and flowed. “What can I do for you?” I asked. “I just need hope” she said, “and sometimes that’s hard to come by.” So this episode is for her, and for all the people who have moments where that light of hope isn’t visible in the storm you are currently in – that would be all of us.
One of the spaces and stories that creates hopelessness is that space of feeling as if we have failed, are failing, or are destined to keep screwing things up. This heavy space is like a drain that sucks the light right out of our souls. So let me share an idea that I heard in church the other day:
When a parent pays for a child to take piano lessons so that they can learn a new skill, develop a talent, understand music, they do not expect the child will sit down and instantly be a concert pianist. They hope the child will sit and practice day after day before even a beginner song can be played. They don’t want the child to pay them back for the lessons, they want the child to take the opportunity given to them to learn something new. They hope the child will respond to the gift and keep practicing year after year until the skill is acquired.
So it is with our Heavenly Father/Mother, with God. We have been given opportunities in our lives to learn many, many things. We often learn these things through trial and error. God doesn’t expect us to be an expert at them out of the gate. We will practice love. We will practice disciplining our minds and bodies, we will practice patience. We will practice overcoming judgment. We will practice sharing and playing nice. We will practice loving ourselves. We will practice healthy boundaries. We will practice living big. We will practice communicating well. Every day we will have opportunities to practice, with every interaction and experience before us. We always get to keep trying. And, we are all practicing different songs.
It’s important to remember that there is never a fall or a fail, a wrong note, where we should stay down. It’s common that when we feel we have failed at something – a marriage, self-control, an expectation, something new we tried, that dark mists of shame and hopelessness, discouragement and futility can easily start to build and swirl at our feet – this is the common human experience. My belief is that it is the adversary looking for every crack in our armor, in an attempt to drain us of hope and increase the darkness we live in. Whether or not you believe in an adversary – a force of darkness that competes with the light, it is the human experience to feel both darkness and light and to choose which they will gravitate toward. For me the hope comes from not staying in a place of self beat-up, but instead asking myself what I learned from the situation and then being kind to myself and moving forward with the new knowledge I gained to try again – to keep moving toward light. We are never unworthy or unwanted. We are simply practicing. Hopelessness would have you throw the music down and stomp off when you hit the wrong notes. Hope comes from the understanding that we are definitely going to hit wrong notes – a lot of them. And, that’s okay, expected, but we are blessed to try again.
If you have children, you will remember when they were learning to walk or to ride a bike. When they fell you never once thought, “Oh, well that child has fallen, he/she is now unworthy to continue to try.” We must be as loving and supportive to ourselves. We are learning every day, and every day we get to keep trying. Maybe that trying involves creating boundaries that support you – moving away from social media or peers who bring you down. Maybe trying is seeking therapy or outside help. Maybe trying is just changing stories that are holding you back. Maybe trying is new affirmations. Maybe trying in just practicing loving that person you really don’t love right now. Maybe trying is getting out of bed and looking beyond yourself.
Each one of us is a sacred being. We are beautiful and beloved and full of potential and talent. Even if we aren’t fully aware of all the power and beauty we hold, we most certainly are vibrant and sacred. Every one of us.
In her book, You are Magnificent, Ganel-Lynne Condi said, “Do the best you can with the information and factors you have at the time; that really is the best you can do.”
She goes on to share that a therapist once told her that hope is not a feeling, it is a choice. A choice to keep choosing a plan B when plan A doesn’t work out. “So,” she says, “if plan A hasn’t worked like you hoped, keep choosing another plan B. Maintain and protect the hope and love you still have, and seek out sources that will expand that light…this is how we can keep acting instead of being acted upon.”
Three final ideas I want to share with you that give me hope:
I have a saying on my wall to remind me that God has my back – that his love is distilled upon me every day no matter the circumstance. It says, “The Lord’s love distills upon us as manna. Manna comes daily.”
Every day that I wake up and stare out the window into the world and face whatever I’m facing, hope tells me that there will be manna out there. I will find what I need to do what I have to do and learn what I need to learn and I am exactly where I’m supposed to be right now –even if it’s in the middle of a storm. The fact that God will distill upon me daily little pieces of his love his huge, but at the foundation of this is the healing power of the atonement of Christ. He forgives us over and over and over – not as a burden, but as a joyful grace. He forgives us frequently and freely. He never tires of our efforts to learn and grow. Knowing this, even when I don’t completely understand how the process of cleansing works, simply that I can keep trying and he’ll keep doing his part. This creates hope. I don’t overcomplicate it – I just keep trying.
Faith, trust and hope are certainly very tight bedfellows.
First project. First Client. First date.
Experience tells you if you want to do it again, how to do it better the next time, each step is a new experiment, a new experience, a new chance to get it right. Even if it goes wrong, it was just an experiment.
John Lee Dumas, successful podcaster, business man and entrepreneur said, “I make mistakes daily. Some big, some small. I make mistakes because I’m a doer. I’ve become a recognized authority because I’m a doer, not because I don’t make mistakes.”
And the third one is people…
Let me share a story from Oprah, in her book, What I know for Sure, she shares:
“In times of crisis, I’ve always marveled at the way people reach out with words of encouragement. I’ve had moments of real devastation in my life –we all have—but I’ve been sustained by the grace and love of friends who have asked, “Is there anything I can do to help?” not knowing that they already have, just by asking. People I’ve known well and others I’ve never met have, in touch moments built me a bridge of support. I’ll never forget when, after a particularly difficult setback a few years ago, my friend BeBe Winans stopped by unexpectedly. “There’s something I came to tell you,” he said. And started singing what he knows is my favorite spiritual: “I surrender all. I surrender all. All to thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.” I sat silently, closed my eyes, and opened myself to his gift of love and song. When he finished, I felt a release of pressure. I was content to just be. And for the first time in weeks, I experienced pure peace. When I opened my eyes and wiped away the tears, BeBe was beaming. He started laughing and gave me a big hug. “Girls,” he said, “I just came ot remind you, you don’t have to carry this load all by yourself.” To know that people care about how you’re doing when the doing isn’t so good – that’s what love is. I feel blessed to know this for sure.”
Hopelessness is the plague of our day. As suicide rates soar, depression and anxiety become the norm, and drug addiction increases, we see manifest amongst us all the results of hopelessness in the most severe ways. It becomes a space of darkness that takes over the minds and hearts of our societies. It might ebb and flow, but when it’s in the flow we desperately need a light – something, a candle, a flickering flame before us that we can see far enough ahead to keep moving forward instead of giving up.
Can I encourage you, if you are NOT in that dark space, to be the light for someone else. And if you are, to remember that life is an experiment, a time to practice our songs, and wrong notes are just part of learning. Reach out if you need help, because often the disconnectedness of our digital age is part of the problem.
Keep trying because you are sacred, you are needed, and everything you’re going through is preparing you to be who you need to be and to do what you need to do. You are the hero of your story, fighting the dragon for the pot of gold you cannot see on the other side of the fight.