With the eyes of your heart enlightened, may you know what is the hope to which he has called you.
In a season that speaks to us of hope, I’ve been pondering the relationship between hope and acceptance. In particular, I’m struck by how in times of hardship or grief, when hope seems far away, invariably someone will feel called to be a hope-bearer for another.
A friend wrote to me this week about her husband’s cancer treatment, a long road of experimental procedures for a type of cancer that, as yet, has no cure. “For now,” she wrote, “I carry the hope.”
Hope is easier for her, she acknowledged, as her body isn’t the one struggling against illness; she feels called to be the one to hold onto hope amidst an unknown future, grounded in a sober acceptance of her husband’s disease. Her hope is larger than the reality of disease, a stance toward life that allows her to fully embrace each day of her husband’s life as a gift and encourage him to do the same.
As a spiritual practice, acceptance teaches us to acknowledge things as they are. Hope, as spiritual practice, invites us to widen our gaze, placing what we must accept within a larger framework. In doing so, we are more open to experience the blessings that come in hard times; draw strength from memories of how our forebears maintained their hope in seemingly hopeless situations, and allow ourselves to trust that there is a greater good and greater love at work in the universe beyond what we can see or experience in our lives as they are now.
There is a courageous quality to hope that rises from acceptance, a willingness to acknowledge how hard life can be sometimes and even to sink down into the abyss of emotions that accompany suffering and loss. For when hope rises from that dark place, it has a resilience to it that enables us to persevere and savor the gift of another day. In the words of Desmond Tutu, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.” Sometimes all we see is darkness, and another carries hope for us. When we are the ones able to see the light, or to trust that it’s there, we carry hope for others.
Where are you being called to hold hope for another, or is someone holding hope for you?
The season of Advent is rich in symbolism–we light candles; we ponder the themes of waiting and expectation; we recognize, if we’re honest, that there’s as little room for Jesus to be born in our world now as there was on the first Christmas. And yet, like all babies, Jesus doesn’t wait for us to be ready. He has the infinite capacity to accept us as we are, the world as it is, and still offer the promise of hope.
The spiritual practices of acceptance and hope are, in the end, postures of surrender and openness to receive what graces God seeks to give. The person I speak to for spiritual guidance often encourages me to ask God for the particular grace I most want to receive.
This Advent I am praying for the grace to see clearly and to accept my life and the world, as Jesus does, as they are. I am praying for the gift of hope, and the call to live by hope. Not hope as magical thinking, unmoored from reality, but hope that brings courage, consolation, and confidence in the greater good and greater love that is the mystery of Immanuel, God-with-us.
What grace might you ask God to give you now, so that you may be blessed and called by hope?
This is the second of three Advent -themed reflections on the foundations of Christian life: faith, hope and love. Read the first: Faith Set in Motion