Right before the new year, I was reading on Ann Voskamp’s blog post, when these words caught me: “But I was told that the forecast is calling for better things up ahead, that there is courage rising on the horizon of a new hoping year —and I’ve seen it with my own eyes, possibility like that.” A spark flew from those words and caught in my heart because I wanted, needed, a new hoping year. We can say that there is something silly about pinning our hopes for change on the shifting of a calendar; I disagree. Hope, courage, and possibility found in a new beginning – isn’t that the offering of Christianity? If that is the narrative we seek in the grand scheme of our lives, it is no less what we seek in smaller moments. We are beings hemmed in by time, and a fresh start does wonders for the soul.
For reasons unrelated to celebrity deaths, the election process, or world disasters, 2016 made an extremely convincing bid for toughest in my life to date. The jury is still out, but I can safely say that it will, at the very least, receive runner up status (this is nothing to be proud of 2016; stop looking smug.) If I am being honest, the events of the past year crushed my hope in many areas. A fight was needed to hang on to that hope, but I didn’t have it in me. Pain and discouragement left a faltering and weakened grasp. But that is what community, both near and far, are for. They catch with willing hands the hope you have let go of and gently return it to you, over and over again.
This past year provided me with tough lessons on cutting out those who rip hope away and those who provide false cheer. To have someone who you trust to restore your hope turn out to be someone who tears you down in a vulnerable moment is devastating. Instinct is to keep looking to them for a way out instead of finding someone else. On the flip side, I am someone who would rather have a harsh truth than a false hope. If I am going to be knocked down, just hit me with it now and get it over with so that I can begin putting things back together. This year I needed so much help putting that hope back together. I needed encouragement about who I am, how others struggle too, and what is okay to let go of. I needed not just prayer but to know I was being prayed for. I needed constant repetition of truth and light until I could grab hold of it for myself and whisper the words out loud in the dark of night.
In that same blog post, Ann wrote about “SOULutions” and twelve resolutions to make for the new year, the first beginning with the word “Embrace.” I knew immediately what it would be for me. I am embracing hope, hope that is based in truth and promise, the kind of hope that hangs onto you even when you have let go of it. Part of that has been taking the evidence of hope and promises that were handed to me this last year and letting them breathe life back into me.
There is surely a future hope for you,
and your hope will not be cut off.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.“
Even in this first week, I have seen hope be handed to me wrapped up like a belated Christmas present. I see it stretching out into new possibilities I couldn’t have imagined just a few weeks ago. I’m seeing hope rising like the dawn.