Monday, April 25, 2011

A favorite four-letter word

It's got to be one of the best four-letter words. At least it's one of my favorites. I know what it means and how it's defined, know how to use it properly in a sentence, how to write entire articles about it, how to philosophize about it. I even know how to temporarily live in it. But I haven't yet figured out how to hold onto it, come what may.


I keep returning to this word. I can't leave it alone. I think I'm good for awhile in the hope department, but then, I start to feel weary. Worn down. Anxious. Negative toward the future. And then I try to figure out what my problem is, may even think I've pinned it down.

Easter, for me, is more than a symbolic holiday. It's a season of remembrance, of feeling the pain of failed hopes and then the joy and resurrection of a greater hope. For some reason, I know that I could celebrate Easter all year long, that my soul needs this continual remembrance, but it so quickly slips away onto a calendar. Yesterday, I didn't even realize how deeply I thirsted for Easter. I almost didn't see it.

I got to church in tears. It seems at Easter that my losses are so close beneath the surface of my heart, crouching with my emotions, waiting to spill over. I tried to focus, but my heart felt dull. Up until my pastor began with his message. It was all about how Jesus is the King of those who are too weak to hope. My attention focused sharply when I heard these words, at once recognizing myself in that group of people. He read from a gospel account of the resurrection, a few stories of how Jesus appeared to different people and none of them recognized him right away.

One such story tells of how Jesus showed up walking beside two disciples on the road to Emmaus - leaving Jerusalem. They looked sad, depressed, hopeless, and talked with him about how the one they thought was the Messiah had been crucified that weekend. He listened, and then as they continued walking, opened up to them all the scriptures that spoke of the Messiah, of how he must suffer for the sins of the people, from beginning to end. When they finally arrived in Emmaus, he was going to keep walking, but they begged him to stay the night with them. It wasn't until they were sitting down to dinner and he blessed the bread and broke it that their eyes were opened and they finally recognized who he was.

How could they be so blind, to not recognize the man they'd seen and followed for the past three years? Their own non-hope, broken spirits and losses blinded them to see Jesus, just as these same things blinded me that morning as I came to celebrate my risen Lord. How easy it is to talk about my hope being in Christ alone, but when I find myself despairing of the future, afraid of further disappointment and loss, of dead-ends and ruts, I see how many imitation hopes I still hold onto. How difficult it can be to let them die so that the one genuine hope beyond all other definitions of hope can be resurrected and live unchallenged, anchoring my life.

I'm thankful that Jesus showed up beside me walking yesterday and opened my eyes. I'm glad I didn't miss him, because I almost did. Now, to take it day by day, walking in sight of hope - Easter year round.

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