Learning About Hope

By November 4, 2020 No Comments

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” (John 14:1)

I’ve learning that hope is a more complicated thing than I’d like it to be. It’s safe to say that none of us likes this time of waiting – but we must wait, regardless. And, depending, hope may have to reach farther into the future than many of us had imagined.

Either way, we have and will continue to have a sea of problems to attend to and solve. Like so many of you, I’ve been hoping that we’d be able to turn our attention to some of these problems come January. Maybe not. If not? For me, a broken heart. But that in itself would serve to increase my sense of being in solidarity with those who have for so long hoped, prayed, and marched for racial justice. These Americans know that the arc of history is as long as history itself. They also know in their own – albeit repeatedly broken – hearts that it indeed tends toward justice.

Speaking of broken hearts, America is broken in ways that you’d think would be obvious to all. That this election has been so fraught and chaotic is part of our brokenness. That any American – regardless of his or her political leanings – would support a man so bereft of decency, character and even conscience as the incumbent is, in my opinion, part of our brokenness.

As have so many of you, I’ve been avoiding the news – and by “news” I mean reporting that has roots in the noble traditions of American journalism. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I did glance at the editorial pages this morning, where I saw a piece that acknowledged and celebrated some of the “bright spots” that we’ve seen so far. I read far enough to see that for the piece’s author, increased voter turnout counted as a bright spot.

About which, fine. Lots of Americans voted – or tried to, even as other Americans worked, as they have for decades, to disenfranchise Americans of color and particularly Black Americans. Voter turnout; bright spot; check. Except that I, for one, am not sure that I’m ready to look for bright spots. Depending, I may need time to be heartbroken first. Or to be grief-stricken. Or to be angry.

Americans of courage have been working for racial justice for at least the 63-and-something years that I’ve been around, and for a lot longer than that. I came to the struggle late. But I, for one, am here to stay. That’s my pledge, such as it is: To continue to encourage and work with those whose hearts have been broken anew, time and time again – and who nonetheless continue to hope, pray, and march.

When we say that “hope does not disappoint” (Romans 5:5) we mean something in addition to “the arc of history is long, but it tends toward justice.” We mean that the capacity for hope as a thing in itself strengthens and sustains us, individually and together.

“Believe in God, believe also in me.” (John 14:1) It helps me to remember that “believe” in this context doesn’t mean “affirm the existence of” so much as it means stand with, encourage, walk with, be in solidarity with, learn from, and be in friendship with. Or, in a word, love. That’s the thing: love. As in God is love. As in you are loved. As in “love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

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