“Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.' 'The Holy Spirit . . . he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life."The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men's activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity.
By now you might have noticed that hope is the common theme of my posts and every board of mine on Pinterest. Hope is the foundation of the quality I admire most: valor. Believing in the unseen. The swoon of love. The sweat of chivalry. The high neck of a lady's dress. Acting out of courage, not for an end result, but that the love in your life will please God even as it pleases no one else.
LESS than no one else. Even as it displeases you, and greatly displeases our culture.
I started out my first reflection on Hope four or five years ago by stating: There is no one less qualified to write a reflection on Hope than this girl. I'm still a novice after 29 years in training - isn't that pathetic? It's like I just can't graduate from the Fr. Richmond Dzekoe School of Hope. As much as I've studied and worshiped the God of heaven ... here I am, reflecting on hope, yet again. Feeling like I know nothing.
And yet... something got me through the last 8 years of ministry. The last 4 years since my health started to act like a lightning bug trapped in November. I sometimes look down at my arms and expect there to be some invisible floaties that God has tied to me in my sleep because there is just no other way I got through some of the days I've had since then. Seriously. None. Less than none.
That's because hope is a grace. Hope is the ultimate proof of God. Hope is what makes it possible to move. To hold on. I'll say it again - hope is a grace. The superhuman thing that humans do every day.
Hope points to our belief in heaven but it is so much more than that. It is the belief in the invisible God, the kingdom beyond the veil, why bravery matters. Hope is the track that love walks on. And faith pushes the start button.
All of us run out of hope. It doesn't just happen to you and the devil, I'm sure, taunts you that you alone have those dark thoughts, those deep-seeping doubts. We spend most of our lives running on hope's fumes: self-doubt. Do you believe that every second of your life matters? Are you waiting for life to begin? Maybe you're hoping that tomorrow will be different? Do you ever go to bed just hoping tomorrow will not be anything like that day?
I finally learned to ask myself: Anna, why would God make you if you didn't matter? He doesn't do "extras" and "sidekicks." To doubt the power of your every minute's existence is to doubt the heat of the sun. If you weren't important, you wouldn't be here. As much as you might feel like a shadow of who you should be... that shadow is still beautiful.
And it came to me in prayer... I don't care how many calories you ate today, how many hours you failed to work out, how many people you disappointed. You do not disappoint your Creator. God didn't die for the sparrows in the field or the wheat that's turned into chaff. He died because of your nature for love. Because we share His blueprint for overlapping into each other's existence just as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit do. Hopelessness only leads to presumption and despair, which squander the vast wealth we have of being able to feel, suffer with and have victory with each other. Never alone. Always with each other. You're not suffering alone; like a sweet little rain cloud, separating yourself from others in your agony only keeps you from their warmth. We can still feel your pain no matter where you storm. Your struggle will dissolve and evaporate as soon as you come close.
Whether or not we see it, today is different than yesterday. Life is a game of inches - as a family I know likes to say. God isn't glorified in the way we stride forward, but in the way He keeps us afloat until before we know it we are soaring.
Hope does not disappoint (Romans 5:5)
Passed over. Just like the angel of death had passed over their homes. Passed over, not of their own human strength, but only out of the ability to trust. Passed over like someone picked them up and carried them over the water, instead of through it. Passed over... like the angel of life, a Patronus from the angel of death.
Passed over... just as you need to simply pass over this time until the clouds split and you realize the Sun was there all along, only you could not feel it shine. Whatever tough time we go through is real and it hurts, but we also have a choice to see beyond the illusion of what we feel to what is even more real. Where you came from, where you're going, where you will always be. In His Love, called to murmur and sometimes shout endless Hallelujah's.
By hope we desire, and with steadfast trust await from God,
eternal life and the graces to merit it. (CCC 1843)
I encourage you to add Exodus 15 to your daily prayer because it's all I have to offer. Heaven is now. We can't see it. But God lives outside of time. Whether you feel like every day is covering you with lashes; like you're near drowning in the Red Sea; you're starving to death in Canaan. Just remember... Moses never saw the Promised Land, but he lived there every day from the Burning Bush on.
Pray with Exodus 15 and know that God has already won your life. You have defeated all your enemies - every insecurity, nasty voice and fear. You've won over them all and they are nothing. You are everything to the God of the Universe. Not one of billions of creations. You are Everything to Him, and to many who know you.
Being made in the nature of God I truly believe we can love another person with our whole heart. Your heart just grows. I'm praying for your shrinking hope to explode with the confetti of God's love like it's your stinkin' birthday. Do not wither. He has you in the palm of his hand and you are all, all - all - that He wants. All He longs for is to see you live forever.
For in hope we were saved. Romans 8:24
Think of the top 5 things in your life that you are most thankful for. They could be people, possessions, achievements, even ideas.
Would you be willing to let go, or sacrifice, these things? What if God called you to Mount Moriah, & your dream of being a mother – or marrying the man of your dreams - or becoming a teacher/famous writer/accomplished doctor/rich anything – and asked you to hand it over on the altar?
What if he simply asked you to…
Give it up.
Give it away.
Let it go.
Set it aside.
So he could replace it with something
Every day I meditate on the virtue of hope so this is not sufficient in glorifying God but it's a preliminary sweep, a first scoop at what this apprentice has learned on the bench of her master's workshop. Maybe it's not floaties that have kept me swimming. It's more like a leash - a chain of love - this gift of love for Him that I can't wash, can't sin, can't hate away for Him. And I'm sad to say I've tried to get free only to realize I can't run anywhere He isn't already waiting to catch me, no matter how high the cliff from which I've dived. My life matters too much to Him. My future matters too much. My happiness - right now - means too much. And He matters too much to me.
God sees you, God loves you, God knows and God cares. When you close your eyes, know how deeply you are loved. Your feelings aren't always Truth. His presence is. Lean into Him and let Him be your hope. Our Father who keeps his promises, our father who has made us heirs and heiresses of eternal life.
Have you ever seen a kid getting bullied? A boy whose parents forgot to pick him up? Have you ever been there when a little girl you love doesn't feel pretty? And the ache it puts in your heart, knowing what they feel and wishing you could just PUSH your love, their self-worth, into their heart?
This is how God sees you. This is what He wants you to know. When you feel downtrodden, turn into Him who is your anchor, your hope, your steadfast love, your security, your unseen sun, your big blue sky.
The veil is his Body - the flesh you eat - the people who care for you.
Today - this is what was on my heart. May your anchor hold within the veil. The veil of His love.
“All of us, with unveiled faces gazing on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 3:18