on hope

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This year, I have been learning that hope fulfilled is a great joy. But it is also quite nuanced.

As I wrote earlier this year: "I am reflecting on what it means to live in that tension. Of hope deferred and hope fulfilled, of grief and joy, of silence and of groanings to deep for words. I’ve chosen and have been chosen for a narrow way [ref]. I will not live tension-free on this earth. I’m learning to make peace with the questions and wonderings that lead me to sometimes just whisper a desperate, “Help my unbelief…”

Approaching Christmas with a baby son is more than I could have dreamed at this time last year. Last year I was full of the ache of waiting, standing in what appeared to be the cold silence of God. I wrote essays that would go unpublished, scratched out prayers in a journal I've abandoned, stared across the lake behind our apartment buildings and shouted angry words into the sky. Last Christmas I wasn't ready to honor advent as the celebration of the first coming of Messiah -- I was too consumed with my deferred hopes. Last Christmas, I was laboring - I was breathing in and out or sometimes not at all - I was pushing and grieving and longing for transition.

And God had mercy and after all that wait, He brought us a son.

I am living in hope fulfilled - but the tension of living has not resolved.

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It makes me wonder sometimes about Mary - the virgin, the holy mother, the woman who labored to deliver the hope of all mankind into the world. Can you even imagine? What kind of belief was required of the girl who likely had her hopes set on a normal betrothal, a nice Jewish husband, maybe a family down the road. Do any of us stop to consider that her hopes of a normal life and marriage were wholly disrupted by the coming of Messiah? On this side of the story we zero in on the angel urging Joseph not to dismiss her, on "Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart". And we have freedom to think this way, with the clarity of hindsight.

But this girl chosen by the Almighty to carry out hope, to labor over hope, to deliver hope...was she not dwelling in the tension that very hope required? She was a Jewish woman -- she likely knew the prophecies, she knew the waiting for Messiah and the restoration that all Jews longed for. And in one angelic moment, her participation suddenly became very real and very specific: You will conceive in your womb and bear a son and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High...

I can only speculate as to her thoughts and emotions and what it must have felt like to literally feel the stirrings of the baby within her. I can only guess as to what the realities of an unplanned pregnancy would have meant to her and to her family; how Joseph must have felt when the news went public. But I am always, always stopped by Mary's response to that angel bearing world-disrupting news: "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word."

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I don't know that the tension of living will ever be resolved. I think that hoping in the Lord is going to mean far more than a pleasant and safe and secure fulfillment of my deepest desires. It is a MERCY when He grants them - but His righteousness is displayed regardless. And if Jesus were merely hope-the-way-I-want-it, He would be no God at all.

Be it unto me, according to Your Word, oh Lord.

This side of the manger, this side of the cross, we are still longing, still waiting on the advent of Christ's return to redeem and restore the earth and His people for all time. Hope means that even in this tension, I believe He will come. I believe He came once, which is astonishing in itself. Occasionally, I listen to myself recite my own little creed and I figure if I already believe that there is one God, an all-knowing Deity who created the heavens and the earth, and that He became Emmanuel, God with us, in human skin, then I already have a head start on hoping He will come again. I wait with eager expectation, even in heartache, for the coming redemption.

Even still, be it unto me, according to Your Word.

May the tension of life on earth be an arrow pointing me to the hope of restoration and the hope that God really will return, really will redeem this broken world, really will make everything sad come untrue. May the wondering and questions not lead me to self-absorption, but lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.

May the broken pieces of life -- broken families, broken dreams, broken hearts -- set themselves up as a picture of all that will fade away when the King returns to make all things new.

Early in the morning, I may rise to the cries of children, friends carrying deep wounds, the deferred hopes of my dearests, and the restlessness of uncertainty. I may rise not knowing what the day holds and yet hoping for peace and rest for my loves, waiting with anticipation for the King to come galloping out of the clouds.

When day breaks and hearts break and questions persist, may I find hope and whisper into the morning sun, 'Behold - the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to Your Word.

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adventsarah sandelComment