A Theological Phrasebook entry.
Hope is sometimes imagined as being fixed on something very far away: a shimmering city on the horizon, a destination at the end of a long road, an X on a treasure map. The object of hope is a terminus, a distant end. But, hope is needed at beginnings too. Hope can be found in a series of stepping stones, in a straight road beneath your feet. You need hope to get out of bed in the morning.
Lead me on a level path say the psalmists (Psalm 27, among others). Give me a road to walk down, show me where I should go, hold my hand along the way. It is a hopeful request. When you are stuck in a swamp, the promise of some unseen city is not much help, you need a handhold, a place to put your next step.
So, hope is about first steps as much as last steps. There is little point in looking to the horizon if you are stuck in the muck, sinking up to your neck. What’s needed is not some future expectation but a trust that the hand that is extended will be strong enough to pull you free; that if you put your foot here, in this spot, the ground will hold, and then there, and then over there, until you have climbed out. Hope is trust that I won’t be left to simply drown, that my life is not simply a great deal of thrashing around without any progress.
There will be a time to consider cities on the far horizon. For now, there is simply a next step, the hint of a path, and nothing more.
- Psalm 27
- Psalm 40
- Psalm 25
- Psalm … well, you get the idea, don’t you? (the Psalms are good – I read one every morning).