Hope is a big deal to me. Because I find it easy to lose it. In two weeks I am going to preach on it, as part of the quartet of themes that have defined advent at my church for half a century – faith, hope, love, and joy. And I find myself wondering where it comes from.
Maybe it is the early sunset and the encroaching cold, but a wind of hopelessness found me this evening. It is not rational, but it is there.
This is no existential state, understand. I do not despair of the world, which might actually be rational with all that is going on. I feel hopeless about me. To be specific, I am more and more certain that I have less and less to offer.
Not many years ago I felt pretty good about my preaching powers, for example. There are some people who remember when I could chisel some stunning sentences, but in the last few years I have been unable or unwilling to carve those words as I once did. Words and phrases that came readily, delighting me with their pith and point, scurry into corners when I spy them now. More and more I find myself hemming and hawing, knowing there is a good word or a powerful phrase and unable to snag it.
Four or so years ago or so I started a manuscript, a spiritual autobiography prompted by encouragement from a few friends. It took most of two years to draft, and another year to revise. Some friends helped and it is better, but judging from the ‘no thank you’ letters from publishers and my own gimlet eye, it is still far from publication, if ever. I look at it and see a ponderous tome that has little to offer.
Which is how I feel about myself this evening. This is the state at which sinners often turn to God. If there is no good hope in oneself, then turn to a higher source. Let’s call it the neurotic’s version of the second of the twelve steps. I understand this and even feel it. But for me hope has to be honest, whether placed in me or some deity.
I suppose what I can hope for is that despite my limited and diminishing powers there might still be a moment or a place where what I have can be of lasting use. But how will I know?
Fortunately, one of the side effects of humility is less-self involvement.