I really enjoy hard conversations. In fact, I prefer them. I often find that in order to get ready to go to church in the morning, I must prepare myself for small talk because it doesn’t come very naturally to me. But if you put me in a room full of strangers to talk about deeper issues like identity, race, and reconciliation, I suddenly feel right at home.
Do you know women like this? Are you one of them? Perhaps you can’t remember little things, like your grocery list or email password, but you can name every woman you’ve met overseas while doing justice work (including where they live and their children’s names). Or perhaps you have a hard time making dinner for yourself, but making hundreds of meals to serve at the local shelter isn’t a big deal at all.
The Nature of Hope
Something happens to us when we face the world head on. I call it wild hope. Have you experienced the wild hope that comes from diving headfirst into the hard things?
You’d think we would all be too distracted by the devastation of the world to ever experience hope. With a scroll through Twitter or a few minutes watching the news, we could easily be overwhelmed with the problems that surround us. Poverty and injustice. Hatred and terrorism. Disease and war. Brutality and death. The list of ways we experience this world as a dangerous and disappointing place could go on and on and on. Yet somehow we still move ever forward—participating, working, collaborating, listening, and advocating. We walk into the heart of despair and declare our wild hope: that justice, peace, and life are possible through the one who proclaimed in this world of death and destruction, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
This wild hope can push us to do the strangest things. We may once have been living a perfectly “normal” life, but now? Now we stand in the middle of conflicts negotiating solutions. Now we travel to places we couldn’t have pointed out on a map. We’re ready to stand in peaceful protest. We’ve become better fundraisers, speakers, and writers than we ever thought possible. We intercede for hurting communities like never before. Reading books that most would find depressing and watching documentaries that move us to tears are now part of our daily bread. This wild hope craves a cause—it needs a way to work in the world.
The History of Hope
This wild hope of ours is not without precedent.
This is the hope of Jochebed who placed her infant son in a basket in the Nile, hoping against hope that her child’s life would somehow be saved. This is the hope of Ruth who clung to Naomi despite her knowledge that their journey would be dangerous and hard. This is the hope of Deborah who left her seat of judgment, risking her life to participate with the army in overthrowing oppression. This is the hope of Esther who went before the king of Persia, revealing her true identity in the hope of saving herself and her people. This is the hope of Mary who allowed ultimate hope to be birthed through her. This is the hope of Mary Magdalene who proclaimed that Christ is risen.
This is the hope of women who dare to move, who say yes to the God of hope. This is the hope of women who believe God is still working powerfully in the world.
And yet, it would be silly to suggest that our hope never wavers. We each know disappointment so intimately; it often feels like the safer companion for our tired souls. Wild hope compels us to work, yet we often forget that it also invites rest—or else we’ll become overwhelmed by how underwhelming our efforts seem in our own estimation. When our efforts seem minuscule compared to the enormity of the world’s problems, we can end up feeling small and insignificant or bitter and angry. Yet when it is hard for me to hold onto hope, I often find this wild hope has laid hold of me.
To be honest, there are moments when I would like nothing more than to walk away from engaging with difficult issues. Retreating can sound so much better than this business of building endurance, character, and hope (Romans 5:3–4). How much more character do I really need, God? I may ask at times. But in these moments, hope reminds me that I am not its source. I hope not in myself or my work, but in God who is faithful, just, loving, and true.
Reawakening my imagination, God asks me to look at the world and see more—more than what is and more of what could be.
My work in the often discouraging world is an act of hope whose source is not reliant on me but on the God who is the author and finisher of our faith. An honest look at the condition of the world and the realities of suffering can also become an act of hope. My belief in the impossible and invisible forces of love and peace remain, not because I am so together or because I am so mature, but because this hope is wild.
We hope in a God who is both faithful and just, filled with mercy and compassion. We find ourselves placing our hope in a God of unfailing love. Our faith calls us back to hope. This hope is wild, and it is ours.