Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Living with Hope" A Reflection on Fr. Nouwen's Prayer for Today

Living with Hope

Optimism and hope are radically different attitudes. Optimism is the expectation that things - the weather, human relationships, the economy, the political situation, and so on - will get better. Hope is the trust that God will fulfill God's promises to us in a way that leads us to true freedom. The optimist speaks about concrete changes in the future. The person of hope lives in the moment with the knowledge and trust that all of life is in good hands.

All the great spiritual leaders in history were people of hope. Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Mary, Jesus, Rumi, Gandhi, and Dorothy Day all lived with a promise in their hearts that guided them toward the future without the need to know exactly what it would look like. Let's live with hope. -Fr. Henri Nouwen

I'm fairly certain I'm not the only one on the planet who has periods when they feel hopeless.

This business of selling my house, paying off all of my debt, and inching forward in my dreams, (toward the greater call to love and create well - in some sustainable fashion!): well, that's EXCITING! But it's a lot. It's a lot to hold, to carry, to move in and through, and stay positive and hopeful about. (This image of a little turtle hauling a house 10 times his size uphill just flashed into my brain.) Ack!

But the thing is: I don't have to HOLD this all. I don't have to haul it all myself either. And I'm not! It's more apparent to me now, than ever before in my 39 years on the planet: that I'm not completely in charge and in control and making all right-action in my life happen. Huh-uh. Because it's just not humanly possible. There's definitely Someone, Something Greater at work here. And knowledge of that Power, is the underpinning of this blasted Hope business.

But it's hard! It's really hard to believe! Especially when you have formulated and been reassured that "YOU ARE IN CHARGE" and "YOU ARE IN CONTROL" and "YOU ARE ALL POWERFUL."


In sixth grade, Joey Schulte, this hot older boy at Sacred Heart in Norfolk, Nebraska, said to me: "Girl, it looks like you've been hauling five gallon buckets your whole life." I was dumbfounded by what that meant.

Am I wobbly? Are my arms spread at a distance from my body? Do my hands constantly curl around imaginary handles? Do I always have a look of carrying a heavy load?

Needless to say, Mr. Schulte's comment made a lasting impression in my mind. "I'm the girl that hauls things." (Why couldn't I be the hot girl? The sweet girl? The funny girl? The cute girl? The sassy girl? Let's not go there. That's another blog!)

Oh, the undoing of the Joey Schulte comments in our minds: this is a call I believe we all have!

While I'm fairly certain - that on some level - Joey did think he was flattering me by noting some apparent strength I possessed, it's taken me years to unravel this concept and embrace the fact and GIFT that I'm not carrying this load by myself. As of late, I'm aware that I'm not carrying anything! God, the Divine, Love, some Angels, Ancestors, my Friends, the Handyman, my Realtor, Arlo -- they are carrying things! They are carrying me! And they are giving me hope!

I like what Nouwen says, or reminds me of here - that I don't need to know what the future looks like. I just need to live in this present moment, trust that all of life is in good hands, in other words: have hope.


On that note, I'm going to clean. Which, incidentally, does involve two large buckets that I get to carry. step a time!

Peace, blessings, giggles,

1 comment:

Betty Lou Miller said...


I’m waiting for Sharon after “work” and I have read the reflection more than once and part of your musings more than once.

When I hear the word, "optimist," I think of South Pacific, the movie, and the song from it, "Cockeyed Optimist." Do you remember it?

It goes:
"I hear the human race is falling on its face, and hasn’t very far to go. But every whippoorwill is selling me a bill and telling me it just ain’t so. When the sky is a bright canary yellow, I forget every cloud I’ve ever seen
So they call me a cockeyed optimist, immature and incurably green.
I’m stuck, like a dope, with a thing called hope, and I can’t get it out of this heart, not this heart.”

I am both, I do believe, an optimist and a hoper.

Sins against hope are: despair and presumption. Despair seems very related to depression. No hope in either case. Presumption in my mind is related to arrogance, as in “My ticket to heaven is in my hand.”

Christians are people of hope; no matter what we have done, when we ask for forgiveness, it is there. You know that light hearted feeling after being forgiven? To forgive and be forgiven are some of life’s best moments.

But, is hope necessary for the now? Or only for the then? Now I am hopeful but it is not for the now, or maybe it is. What a dichotomy! Hope requires a future. Live in the now, but with hope.

Blessed be the Lord
Blessed be the Lord
The God who loves me
The God who saves
I will not fear the dark of night,
Nor the arrow that flies by day.

That entered my mind and I can’t remember the rest;
Could it be about hope?

Prayers for many bucket carriers.

Betty Lou