Three Faces of Hope
By Cory L. Kemp
Recently I returned to my Oxford Dictionary to refresh my memory on the definition of hope. I've grown uncomrotable with how easily we as a culture use the word hope to dismiss the very essence of what the word is intended to convey. How has the word hope come to be its own worst enemy? Do we as a culture still have hope? What does it mean to hope? Oxford offers hree words that define hope as a verb in our culture: expect, desire and confidence. I believe these words are the keys to understanding hope in our culture, as well as defining this understanding as three faces of hope.
To expect something to happen usually means one of two things: an event is going to take place because it has been planned to occur; or an expecation has been set, apart from any connection to reality, and the event may or may not take place. To expect the birth of a child is to anticipate an event that is planned to occur. Circumstances may sway how that event happens, but the expectation and the event are both concrete, real.
To expect that same child, three years later, to automatically pick up her/his toys simply because they have been told to once is a flase expectation. New skills take time and encouragement to develop. To believe otherwise is to have false hope, and to set oneself up for disappointment.
To expect something based in reality is to hope for something that can actually become a reality. To expect something that likely will not be is to hope falsely. I believe this is the point at which we have turned hope against itself, pretending that hope is a last ditch piece of magic to reconcile our realities like an out-of-balance checkbook. If we hope, even falsely, then God will hear us and life will be perfect, by our standards. When life doesn't become perfect, whole, fixed, we generally blame God, a God who doesn't listen and doesn't give us what we want. Our hopes are dashed, we puot a little and still have to manage our lives. Our false hopes translate to a false accusation against God, and we are no where but where we started.
Desire. It's a fantastic soap operal word. Images of great romances, passtioate love affairs and love-gone-wrong-made-right are all evoked by the word desire. I have nothing against the useage or the soap operas - I can tell you the storylines on Days of Our Lives right now, in detail. My only complaint is how limited our use of desire has become. Dream is a much sfer term, more etheral and, life false expectations, easier to pretend with ourselves about. Desire is about passion, committment and a zest for living.
Can you envision hope in such a dramatic, powerful way? If you can you can also see that this kind of hope is big, strong and every ounce of real that is possible. Desireous hope speaks of faithful abandon, a joyous celebration of what you can see coming, and you can zero right in on with a great shout of, "Hallelujah!"
I'm not sure our culture knows this kind of hope, this treasure of delight that can move us forward and deepen our intent for a better furure. We are a tenuous people, not quite wanting to invest in and develop something we don't believe we can touch. To dream is an etheral, individual experience. To desire is to lay claim to the passion of living and forge ahead.
We are missing this kind of hope in our culture, but I believe we can begin to dot the landscape with potent, consistent doses of the kind of desireous hope that faith in God inspires. Openess to that infusion of power and faith is the conviction for things we can't see yet, but can survey with our hearts and souls. What it means to hope is to have confidence in God as our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Our expectations and desires are based in reality, and we are confident because we have every reason to be.
More than anything, these three faces of hope - expectation, desire and confidence - give us the framework out of which we see God ahead of us, beckoning us forward with one hadn, and reaching to grasp us firmly with love with the other.
About The Author
Cory L. Kemp
As an ordained minister I have worked in educational ministries in several congregations, as well as pastoring a congregation.
My writing has focused on nonfiction essays and I have recently submitted a theological memoir for publication.
My ministerial background and love of writing have combined to develop Creating Women Ministries, a website dedicated to encouraging theological dialogue, particularly among women, through workshops, journaling and personal spiritual development.