Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite novelists; The Poisonwood Bible, Flight Behavior are my favorites. She is also seemingly well acquainted with Hope. Here’s a Kingsolver quote about hope: “The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”
How do we live inside our hope, right under its roof? How do we stop packing hope away in a beat-up cardboard box – along with broken dreams, shattered relationships, unmet expectations, and dusty disappointments – and storing it the attic.
I’m discovering that hope is a muscle. Like most of the best things in life, we have to choose it and use it. If it isn’t exercised, it gets soft and flabby. When most needed, it is not ready for use. So instead, we pull out despair which is always tuned up and waiting to be called into battle. Then, as we wage that battle with despair as our weapon, we lose a little more faith in life and a lot of joy. If we want hope in our lives, we have to call its name regularly. Here is what Kingsolver says about that process.
“In my own worst seasons I’ve come back from the colorless world of despair by forcing myself to look hard, for a long time, at a single glorious thing: a flame of red geranium out-side my bedroom window. And then another: my daughter in a yellow dress. And another: the perfect outline of a full, dark sphere behind the crescent moon. Until I learned to be in love with my life again. Like a stroke victim retraining new parts of the brain to grasp lost skills, I have taught myself joy, [and hope] over and over again.”
Take an inventory. What are the things that bring you hope? A scripture passage? A song? Time with your grandchildren? A friendship? Prayer? The beauty of creation? A poem? Taking a class? Put that hope to work. Exercise it; don’t put it away in a box!
And remember, as Barbara Kingsolver says, “Hope is a renewable option: If you run out of it at the end of the day, you get to start over in the morning.”