February 20th. Since 2013, this day and the memories it holds has become precious and painful at the same time. On this day many hopes died. The hopes of healing from cancer…more years to enjoy retirement…walking his daughters down the aisle someday…becoming a Grandpa…growing old with my mom…these would never be fulfilled for my Dad. And yet, on the same day…despite the hopes that died, the deepest longings and the Greatest Hope of his heart were finally realized. Being with Jesus.
“In Your Presence is Fullness of Joy…’ Psalm 16:11
Tonight, in the quiet of my room, I reflected back on some things I wrote 2 years ago about hope…
Recently I listened as another teacher shared a book with our kindergarten students. It was called ‘HOPE is an open heart’. Each page had the simple words ‘HOPE is…’ and a description with a beautiful photo. ‘HOPE is..’ having a hand to hold… Hope is…a mother’s good night kiss…Hope is…
Yesterday I was driving along I 81 heading back to Ottawa from the Eastern States, highway stretching in front of me, my lights illuminating just enough pavement ahead to keep my car moving toward my goal. Ottawa…Home. And as I peered ahead into the darkness the phrase ‘This Hope we have… as an anchor of the soul…sure and steadfast’ floated through my thoughts.
I pondered for a moment the word ‘anchor.’ When I think of Hope, I see images of a sunrise glowing in a dark sky, or the wistful look of a child. A google image search found me hands outstretched into a sunset sky…a shoot of green pushing through the parched earth…a child with a heart balloon…a sailboat on the calm sea…but nowhere did I see the image of an anchor.
And I hadn’t seen an anchor in the “Hope’ book either.
So why is Hope described as an anchor for my soul? I think of an anchor as steady, unmovable, unchanging. Consistent, keeping a floating vessel attached to something solid, keeping it from sailing away to dangerous waters.
But Hope in this life, I reflect, often feels more like a roller coaster.
There are many things I’ve hoped for…that I do hope for. When my hopes are realized, its as though I have been riding up up into the sky, perched at the top of the roller coaster with a view of the whole horizon underneath me, the feeling of exhilaration making my heart beat fast. But the next moment may have me spinning and twirling down towards the cement, hanging on with white knuckle grip, not sure which direction is up or if there is even a horizon….and the things I’ve hoped for lie dashed, unfullfilled. I am left trying to regain my equilibrium, and the courage to try again for a horizon view.
And over the years we have done the roller coaster ride so many, many times.
For all of us it starts before we can even verbalize our needs…hoping someone will come when we cry. Hoping we will feel the secure love and unconditional love of a parent. Hoping we will be protected from harm, from hungry stomachs, skinned knees, and hurtful words at school. Then we begin to hope others understand us…our needs, our dreams, our desires and wants. How much we NEED an ice cream cone or a new pair of shoes…how we HAVE to go to a friends house… And all of our hopes are dependant on the people around us…dependant on their understanding us, loving us, caring about us, and being able to provide what we’re asking for.
For some, the most basic hopes will be dashed…they will go to bed hungry, feel rejected, unloved…and the ability to hope again will flicker and fade away. For others, the dashed hopes over a ‘no’ to ice cream or a playdate will feel crushing…but they will regain hope for the next time…because there is trust and a memory of a ‘yes’ in the past.
And as we grow…what we hope for will grow too. Our dreams will grow… to not just be liked as a friend…but really loved and known for who we are. Not just to enjoy our community…but to travel the world. Not just to enjoy an ice cream cone…but to share what we have, and make a difference in the lives of others…to change the world. To be successful, applauded, praised and acknowledged for what we do. To have possessions, a house of our own…to have children to call our own… memories to treasure.
And as we are able to make more of our own decisions, we can push for our dreams to be realized. We can work hard, connect with the right people, eat the right food, and make wise decisions with our money. We can surround ourselves with people who encourage us to follow our dreams and help us to realize them.
And we may have top-of-the-roller-coaster-moments…walking across the stage to receive a diploma, the flush of success on our face…crossing the finish line of a race just with in the time we hoped for… standing alongside friends, celebrating their wedding day…holding a newborn baby…catching up with a friend we haven’t seen for years and finding they are just the same… perfect bluebird skies for a ski trip… friends surprising us with a birthday party…looking out at a Hawaiian horizon and watching whales jump below…feeling the love of friends who are there for us in a hard time.
So many hoped for moments of joy.
And yet…life is uncertain. Despite all our work, our dreaming, despite all of the people around us that we love, there will be moments when our roller coaster is careening downhill, upside down, and out of control.
Days when the hoped for blue skies are grey. When the people we love will not be there for us…when our loved ones will leave us with only memories. When our friends forget our special days, when we fail at the things at which we had hoped to succeed . When we find our friendships have changed…rifts have come to break us apart. When finances don’t allow traveling to Hawaiian beaches, or fears keep us on the ground in an effort to feel safe. When despite friends who love us, we long for commitment from one who will promise to walk the rest of our lives with us. When the babies that smile up at us make us long for our own… when our minds and bodies fail us.
When our hopes lie unfulfilled…dashed.
And we will find our selves holding on for dear life…on the roller coaster track struggling to regain our equilibrium, and to regain the courage to hope again for a horizon view.
So how then can Hope be an anchor for my soul? How can I rest in the sureness of an anchor, that holds even on a stormy sea? My thoughts drift to Romans 5 vs 13..
‘Hope does not disappoint…because ‘our desires will surely be fulfilled’…
No. ‘HOPE does not disappoint….Because’ the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us.’
The Love of God. Poured out by the Holy Spirit, filling our hearts to the brim. Filling them so full of the confidence that we are loved, that we are redeemed, that we are treasured…that we can Hope in the goodness of One who loves us. We can Hope in the good plans He has for us…despite the pain along the way. Despite the unfulfilled longings…. We can Hope without being disappointed.
We can stay with a full horizon view… of His incredible, unfailing, unconditional love for us. Stretching out deeper, wider than the biggest ocean we can imagine.
Even as our hopes for this life may lie dashed…even as our roller coaster spins.
Hope…will anchor our souls in the ocean of His Love.
A Love that will one day lead us Home.
Looking to the Heavens, You’re there
And in the dark depths of despair
Even there Your love will find me
Knowing that I’m never alone
Even if Your hand takes my home
To the other side of the sea
Your love will find me
Your love will find me (Brian Doerksen)