Fragile, Frightful Hope

Hope is always a bit unrealistic.

The reason some of us – myself a prime example – retreat to the confines of what we proudly call ‘realism’ is because we are afraid to hope. Hope is not only unrealistic, it is fearful.

Hope is the longing that one’s desires will somehow be fulfilled. The single gal hopes for a suitor. The married couple hopes for a child. The college graduate hopes for a job. The sports fan hopes for a victory. The church hopes for stability and prosperity. Such hopes are variously realistic and unrealistic.

But if we have hoped and have seen our hopes dashed, it will not be long before we are afraid to hope any longer. Hope draws our fragile emotions out into the open where they are vulnerable once again to being beaten to death by disappointment. After a hurtful breakup, or the third miscarriage, or the fourth rejection letter, or the fifth pastor in seven years, we may have no more desire to risk disappointment. We retreat, fearfully, into what we call realism. It protects us from hope. It protects us from hurt. It’s not a happy place, but it is a safe place.

My sports obsession has given me insight here, insight that I see as applicable in the more serious affairs of life.

After the Tampa Bay Rays lost the second game of their best of five series with the Texas Rangers, I lost all hope. I was a realist, of course. They stood a 13% chance, statistically, of coming back to win the next three games. I watched game 3 with no emotion, and no fear, because I had no hope. To watch without hope was safe. To hope would have introduced the risk of hopes being unfulfilled, and I did not want to face that.

But they won game 3 and game 4. Now, they play Tuesday night with a chance to advance to the American League Championship Series. And I find myself trying to put away all hope, because of my fear of disappointment. I want to hope, but I’m afraid that if I do, I’ll face the frustration of disappointment.

That is a window into my heart and my sin, but I believe it to be a window into the hearts of many. We have been broken so many times, that we refuse to hope anymore. The only way to be open to hope again is to find a place to stash the fear. And I don’t know any way to do that other than to be reminded that I am a beloved child of God.

I can never know beforehand whether the Rays will win or not. And I cannot tell another whether he or she will find a mate or have a child. And I cannot know whether my church will prosper or falter.

But I can know that whether any of these things come to pass or not, none of them change the way God looks at me. His embrace never slackens. His heart never grows cold. And when I look into his face, the candle of hope can flicker once again to life.

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I cannot tell from day to day how many will or will not be reading this blog. I would benefit from hearing your thoughts on these reflections, or some word of your experience, regarding the intersection of fear and hope.

6 thoughts on “Fragile, Frightful Hope

  1. Reading this post took me back to high school, when I would be having a difficult time emotionally and you would say just the right thing to help me gain perspective. It spoke directly to my heart tonight, when I really needed to be reminded that fear is not the sheltered place I want to live within. Hope is a wonderful, terrible step forward into the open. But the open is the only place I can become the person God intends me to be, of that I am certain (though there are so many other things I still don’t know!).

    I can’t fully identify with the sports thing, but I appreciate that you share it – I rarely read one of your blog entries without displaying some emotion, and often it is laughter (the best kind of laughter, too — not the kind where I’m laughing AT you). Thanks! Jeni

  2. Thanks, Jeni. It is encouraging to know someone is reading; it is further encouragement to know someone is being encouraged by it.

    High school, though, I fear, was a few years ago now… 🙂

  3. Mike

    As an avid Minnesota Twins fan (my friends call it an obsession), I truly understand the fragility and frightfulness of Hope! Good thing I am a faithful person though. The Twins often shatter my hopes (especially in the post-season.) God, on the other hand, doesn’t.

    Now, don’t even get me started about the Vikings…

  4. Oh, ouch. That’s painful. I really wanted the Rays to face the Twins. Yankee arrogance needs to be addressed! But I do confess having a hard time cheering for a Favre/Moss combo! But I do appreciate your suffering…

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