Thursday, August 21, 2014

a fool's hope

Yesterday I posted a thought to my friends that went like this: “I’d rather be hopeful and wrong than despairing and right. Anyone with me?”

A friend wisely responded: “They’re not necessarily mutually exclusive are they?”

Now, that’s the kind of hope I like! Peter, thank you for saying that. It is a good reminder.

That made me realize: hope never lives in a vacuum. There is a context.

In one instance, there is a hope in (and for) enduring qualities like grace, forgiveness, joy, and justice. When we hope in those things, we don’t have to wonder: “Is this hope right or wrong?” We know it’s right. And, whether those qualities win the day (they always do, in the end) we don’t have to wonder if it’s right to take a stand for them, to bank on the hope of them.

Another friend quoted Erasmus, reminding me that, if we face difficulty in taking a stand for what’s right and true, we should not relent. Yes, that is true and good. That is hope.

But hope sometimes resides in another context, and this is what makes the second kind of hope more risky. It is the instance when you are hoping for some kind of outcome, but you are unsure if it will come to pass. You really don’t know. Stepping out into this kind of hope takes faith and you might fail.

The choice to battle cancer is an example of this kind of hope. We don’t know what the outcome will be. We might choose “wrongly.” Cancer might kill us anyway after a grueling course of chemo. Why hope, then? Why subject oneself to such pain and agony? Well…

…what is the option? To resign oneself to death and despair? In some cases, that choice is accompanied by a kind of true peace and, yes, hope. But in those cases where the choice to die is simply a form of hopeless resignation (“I give up”)…well, that is just despair. The despair might be “right.” The person might be right: “I’m going to die anyway.” Well, yes, but…I’d rather be hopeful and wrong than despairing and right.

That is the kind of hope I had in mind. And here’s another instance where hope might “fail”:

We put our hope in other people and I believe this is a good thing. To be sure, some “Christians” out there will raise their eyebrows at such a statement. They will think, “We should only put our hope in Christ.”

But the same Christ who calls us to put our hope in him also asks us to, in a very concrete way, learn to extend hope towards one another. We cannot love one another without working towards trust. To work towards building trust is to work towards the horizon of hope. You can’t separate the call to love from the practice of hope.

And that’s risky, because…people might fail you. You might be proven wrong to put your hope in that person, to trust them, to give love to them. It might hurt you. So, here’s the deal: I’d rather go on hoping, with the risk of being hurt or let down (“wrong about them”), than live isolated from others, mired in despair and be “right” because…”people will hurt me.”

That is no kind of life for anyone.

These days, that is the kind of hope I’m practicing. I have been scrutinized and analyzed by others these past few weeks and, quite honestly, it hurts. A handful of naysayers have very little hope in the hopes God has given me. “He is on a fool’s errand,” they think. Holes have been poked in the idea that God might be a dancer. *Gasp*  Wouldn’t that be simply awful and wrong? “It’s not biblical. Prove it.”

Other friends who have known me for more than a decade begin to question whether I am walking away from “the Good News”, as Christians like to call it. “What does play have to do with that?” they wonder. Some are withdrawing the trust I’ve enjoyed over the years.

I’m the same me, only more so. The new adventure I’m on is because of hope and the God of hope. So, I have no choice but to go on hoping.

I might be wrong and they might be right. But that is no kind of life to live. What’s more: I know in my heart that what I am on is right and true and good. There is nothing bad about it.

But we might fail. We could fall flat on our face; our little experiment could go nowhere. So, yes: I could be “wrong.”  It’s a risky hope.

I love that scene in The Lord of the Rings where the good guys are about to be slaughtered by the bad guys. The question of hope comes up and Gandalf notes: “There never was much hope. A fool’s hope, perhaps.” In spite of that, what are they prepared to do?

Fight and die for that fool’s hope. Because it is right and true and good.

I would rather be hopeful and wrong than despairing and right. Right now, I know in my head that the two are not mutually exclusive, but in my heart it sure feels like they are. I trust to hope that, in the end, this fool’s hope is seen for what it is: right and true and good.

Thank you for understanding. And, I humbly ask, if you have a counter-argument, extend me some grace and keep it to yourself because I'd rather you not try to put out this fire in my gut--even if you're right.

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