A little story of hope...
It was Christmas of 2011. My next door neighbor and good friend told me that she had some exciting news. She had received a Christmas greeting from a friend of ours, Rodger, from whom we had not heard anything in nearly 30 years!
While this was astonishing enough, there was something else that amazed me even more. Of course, I was pleased that he had asked about me. But I was completely unprepared for what came next. He had written her that he had been thinking about his days in Cleveland (he had been in the same volunteer corps that I had) and, some months before, had Googled some of his old friends. In the process, he had found this blog. He had been reading my ramblings and viewing my images and I had never known.
Since that initial contact, Rodger and I have corresponded and shared some of our lives and spiritual journeys. We have exchanged links to spiritual resources that have enriched or challenged us. After so many years, I had given up hope that I would ever find out what happened to Rodger. And now he has become a spiritual brother to me, despite the 2000+ miles between us.
I could have just as easily posted this story under "grace", for certainly One greater than either of us was at work, enabling this to unfold as it did. (Remember how I wrote in yesterday's post how afraid I had been to hit the "publish" button that first time but did it anyway? Sheer grace.) However, I have chosen to tell this story during this Week of Hope because I am reminded how easy it is to "give up hope" when so much time passes that we assume something we wish for will never happen.
Now losing touch with Rodger was not a devastating event in my life - no offense, Rodger :-) - but it was sad. What I had no way of knowing, however, was that there was a gift waiting for me decades later, a gift far better than I would have asked for. A spiritual brother...
To live the way of Hope is to live with openness, expectancy and even confidence, that there are gifts awaiting us - even when that doesn't seem at all likely. Consider any problem or dilemma that is now troubling. Perhaps it looks like the problem will never be resolved. Perhaps it appears that the suffering can only get worse. Perhaps it seems like God is ignoring my prayers because I have prayed and prayed and the help I have asked for has not come.
To live the way of Hope is to trust that there is One who knows my afflictions, my needs and my wants, and who loves me unconditionally. It is to trust that the Holy One is already giving all to me, though I may not see it in this moment - and that He may even be giving me something far grander than what I wished for.
Why, one might ask, this insistence on hope? If I don't have to persuade God with my prayers to help me, why then all the praying and waiting? If God loves me and is going to give me all I need, why doesn't He just do it now?
Perhaps the best response to this question I have come across is from Herbert McCabe, OSB: "The prayer is not to make God ready to give, but to make us ready to receive. Have you ever said 'thank you' for a gift by saying, 'It's just what I've always wanted'? Well, God wants his gifts to be, and to be seen to be, what we have wanted. After all, every good thing that comes to us is the gift of God; but when it comes to us as an answer to prayer we see it for what it really is, as a gift of God, an expression of his love." (from Christ, God and Us, by Herbert McCabe.)
God wants us to know that He loves us and then to love Him in return. Not to meet any need of His, for He has no need, but because it is so very good for us...
Now, back to Rodger. Rodger, I'm afraid, is one of those people who protests that he doesn't have any artistic talent. However, because he is a good spiritual brother to me (and because I nagged), he has shared some photos he recently took of the west coast where he resides with his wife and two sons. Here is the first one, designated for our Week of Hope:
(Photo by Rodger. reprinted with permission.)
(If you would like to share comments, writings or images for this Week of Hope, please e-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please indicate if you want your name or a pseudonym to be used with them. Only two more days to be included in this special week! You may also forward items related to the other 6 holy pauses as we will be spending more time with them in the near future.)