Saturday, March 3, 2012

Lent: Hope

warning: this is a long one.  Read it if you like, but I wrote this as a lecture to myself.

I feel pressed to write about Lent as training in hope, though I do not quite understand it myself and certainly do not deserve to write about it.  I become discouraged, my hope withers, all the time, and yet I feel continually called back to hope; to illogical, stubborn hope.

It is the most important thing in the world, Hope.  I do not know how I would live without it.

I think that it is the most courageous thing we are called to, and it happens beneath the surface, in the dark, this long stretch of grey before spring.

Hope rails against the impossible.  In fact impossible is a necessary ingredient for hope- if it is logical, probable, possible, it is not hope.  It is at the end of hope that hope happens . . . the end of our understanding and logic, at the end of who we thought we were or who we thought God is, at the end of what we believed that God would do.

I think of Lent as this grey of March.  It is the season that gives voice to our failure and regret, lack of understanding, our impossible.  We are incapable of love, incapable of any good thing . . .

Almighty and most merciful father,
we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep,
we have followed too much the devices and desires of our
    own hearts,

we have offended against thy holy laws,
we have left undone those things which we ought to
    have done,
and we have done those things which we ought not to
    have done.

This is why I need to lead my children through Lent.

Because someday life will grow dark.

Much of life is spent here, in the fog and failure, wrestling our why's before God . . . they need to know this.

To teach my children to hope- the reason for hope- is my most important job as a parent.  It is the greatest gift I can give them.

We were reading our book of Bible Stories during breakfast and on this day I opened to the story of Abraham offering his son on the altar . . .

"Abraham didn't understand, but he was sure God knew best.  He would obey."

I looked up to find questions in her eyes and I could only look back with questions.  And honestly?  I was angry.

Every day I tell them how good God is, so very good, that He loves and loves and loves.  Every day I call out to them the good things he does, and gives, and every evening we thank Him for His goodness.  We had just read about the miracle of Abraham and Sarah conceiving Isaac and see, isn't God good?

And I am sure that this passage can be dissected and explicated and and debated . .. but I can only understand it as the place where we choose to give God everything.  To surrender to him all of our understanding and love most and even His very goodness, what we understand of his goodness, we give it back to Him.

I was angry that morning because it just seemed like too much, unreasonable . . .

Later I read about Abraham in the new testament, a verse I hadn't noticed before:

 Heb.11:19, Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead . . .

This was new for me: Abraham's faith wasn't in his sacrifice, but in his hope. 

And this is Lent: the journey to Moriah.  The wrestling in the Garden.
And this is faith: full surrender.
And this is hope: Easter morning.  God can raise the dead.

I cannot rejoice in the resurrection without the Cross, and before the cross is the Garden.  Before Abraham laid Isaac on the altar, they climbed the mountain.

I cannot rejoice in hope without this reasoning, wrestling, the logical dismantling. . .  finally laying aside all doubts and fears and choosing to surrender to hope.

And this is the other impossibility of hope: it extends beyond my lifetime.  I may never understand in this life, but God can even raise the dead . . . 
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

1 comment:

Brandee Shafer said...

This is beautiful and, for me, very timely. I'm teaching Sunday school classes on hope right now. I think I'll share your words with my class, tomorrow morning.