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On hope

I recently read an excellent interview on the Rust Belt Girl. It’s a blog I follow by the lovely Rebecca Moon Ruark. The interview was with author Eliese Colette Goldbach — a writer from the rust belt of America.

A thought-provoking and honest piece, the questions and answers ranged from Goldbach’s time working at a steel mill to the art of writing well. But it was her comment on hope that struck me.

You can’t have faith in humanity if you don’t also doubt its goodness. You can’t have hope if you don’t also invite despair. And I’m talking about real hope here, not the cockeyed optimist kind that’s divorced from reality. Real hope has an axe to grind. Real hope has bloody knuckles. 

Eliese Colette Goldbach in Part I of my interview with Eliese Colette Goldbach, author of Rust: A Memoir of Steel and Grit, Rust Belt Girl

It’s the type of hope that keeps us white-knuckled and awake in the middle of the night when we’re trying not to give in to sadness. It’s the type of hope that screams it has to get better when all we want to do is crawl into a hole and die there. It keeps us breathing when the pain gets too much.

And Goldbach knew it. She lived it. What’s more, she could articulate it with stunning clarity.

“Despair is just hope earning its stripes,” she says.

Isn’t that the truth.

It’s during the dark times that hope shines the brightest. It instils a longing for a better world and pushes us to believe in its possibilities if only we can hold on long enough to see it.

The old biblical promises come flooding back when the night is blackest, reminding me that I have a sure and secure hope in this life that bleeds into the next. That I have a home ready for me.

One day, I will not always seek forgiveness. I will not always disappoint. But I will know how to love my creator and my neighbours with all my soul. And God will delight in me.

One day, this fallen world will pass away, and a new creation will be before us. And the knowledge spurs me on when I get world-weary.

There is so much bad news at the moment. From the tragedy of needless COVID deaths to the staggering inequality found not only in other parts of the world but right where we live. We could drown in its sadness if we let it.

And just when it feels like I’m going to sink, hope breaks through the dull grey ache. Like the morning sunlight hitting me full on the face, I bask in its warmth. It shouts better days are around the corner. It pushes me to see that all may not be lost.

I find my heart lifting at the little things these days. In the beauty of small things that are often overlooked. It may not make the news or be life-changing to all. But it is significant to me and fills me with hope.

They’re often a glimpse of God’s goodness in this broken world. A taster of what is to come.

A few months ago, on the other side of the world, a remote village opened its very first library. Strangers in distant countries came together to donate funds for this village to purchase books and journals. The space was modest. But that didn’t matter. Books, too expensive for some to own, were now available to people for free.

Never mind that libraries can help achieve developmental goals by raising literacy rates, or that free access to information can facilitate new economic opportunities. Never mind that books and journals can open up a world of knowledge that can be applied to better people’s lives in the village.

I just loved thinking about the kids who’ll be using that library for the first time.

I imagined their horizons expanding through the books they’d be reading. And smiled, thinking how their dreams could grow and stretch outside the boundaries of their village.

For a moment, the world seemed just a little less broken — the future, a little bit brighter.

And it made me absurdly happy.

On this side of the globe, deep in South West London, it’s the joy in the small and simple things that are keeping me going through yet another lockdown.

A cup of coffee in the morning, for example, can be a beautiful thing. I like putting my hands around the cup, warming them for a moment against the hot ceramic. Especially when it’s below freezing outside.

It snowed recently. It was the first time our teenage son saw it falling from the heavens. He was delighted.

The first thing he did was make a snowball and throw it at me. Then he started making more and pelting trees with them. His gloves were soaked, and his hands were red. But he didn’t care. He loved every minute of it.

It was so lovely to see families out and about as the snow came down. Children were rushing around on their plastic sledges at the common, and snowmen popped up in front of houses.

It was almost as if God knew we all needed something to lift our spirits. Something to break the monotony. And for a brief, beautiful, blindingly white moment, the London snow did just that.

But hope is more than a library in far off lands. It’s more than a cup of coffee or a snow fall. For me these small moments are gifts from my creator and part of a much greater hope.

Broken and bloodied, dragged through despair, I believe true hope is something God plants deep within us at just the right time. We just need to be open to it when it rises from the depths to come barrelling our way.

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February 2021
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