Hope is believing in spite of the evidence,
then watching the evidence change. — Jim Wallis
The verb hope means “to want something to happen,” while the noun hope refers to “a feeling of expectation and desire” and, in its oldest sense, trust. When we really expect that something we’ve hoped for will come to pass, it’s enough to lighten both our hearts and our steps.
Sometimes, when our son was young and his walk would suddenly turn to skipping for no apparent reason, David and I regarded it as a bit of embodied hope. “We’ve got skip,” we would say to each other, an expression for a moment of delighted hope that we still use today.
In Spanish, the expectant nature of hope is linguistically built in. The same word, espero, is used to say both “I hope” and “I wait.” One cannot talk about waiting for something without also expressing hope that it will come to pass, and one cannot express hope for something without being reminded that it will involve waiting. It is a double meaning that grammatically engages us in the future. As theologian Eleazar Fernandez notes, “[T]hose who wait in hope are already being grasped by its power as they wait.” (Reimagining the Human)
Waiting with Hope in Good Luck (NJ)
In the mid-1700s, a farmer named Thomas Potter living in the coastal town of Good Luck, New Jersey, knew something about the junction between waiting and hope. Potter believed in universal salvation — the idea that God is too loving to cause any being to suffer in eternity for wrongs committed in this life — and it was a belief radically out of step with the dominant Calvinist teachings of the day. Calvinist proclamations of predestination then prevalent said that our fate is predestined at birth and only a precious few of us are predestined to salvation.
Eager to bring the good news of universalism to his town, in 1760, Potter built a chapel on his own land and then waited, hoping for a preacher who would deliver the message of universalism from its pulpit. For ten years he waited, and the chapel stood empty. Then one September day in 1770, a large ship became stranded on a sandbar, and a passenger named John Murray made his way into the bay in a smaller vessel.
Murray had been a Methodist minister in England and had lost his standing in the church because he’d been preaching universalist salvation. After his wife and only child died of illness, he sailed to America with the hope of starting over, vowing never to preach again. But when Potter met Murray on the shore and learned of Murray’s history and theology, he insisted that Murray stay to preach in his chapel that Sunday. Murray refused, saying he was no longer a preacher and that he needed to leave as soon as the wind would take his ship back out of the bay. To which Potter famously replied that the winds would never change until Murray agreed to deliver his message in the chapel that awaited his arrival.
When Sunday came, the ship was still stuck in the bay, and Murray preached in the chapel, delivering a long-anticipated universalist message to Potter’s family and neighbors. As the story goes, as soon as the sermon was over, the winds changed and Murray’s ship was free to sail. Murray left but soon returned to the area, preaching a message of universal salvation for years to come, and eventually founding America’s first universalist congregation in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
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Faithful Waiting Despite All Evidence
Hope is the kind of faithful waiting we do despite all evidence that would persuade us not to. Hope is how we prepare ourselves for a new possibility we have longed for but never seen. It is a kind of waiting that builds new spaces for the yet unspoken messages we most need to hear.
What are the messages you’ve been longing to hear? It might be something meant for all of us, a message of saving grace that many yearn to hear.
“I am with you always,” said Jesus in one such message. (Matthew 28:20 NRSV)
“Whoever is planted in the Tao / will not be rooted up,” wrote Lao Tzu in another. (Tao Te Ching, Stephen Mitchell)
“Do not fear,” said God to the Israelites, “for I am with you.” (Isaiah, 41:10 NSRV)
Or it could be more personal encouragement — such as healing words of forgiveness, support, courage, or companionship (e.g., don’t give up; we’re in this together; I’ve got your back; or you’re loved just the way you are).
IN YOUR OWN WORDS
Imagine your empty page as an invitation for these messages to be spoken. Make a list of them.
As you wait to hear them, is there hope in your waiting?
Begin writing with the prompt below and keep writing:
While I wait...
*subtitles by InnerSelf
©2013 by Karen Hering.
All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission from
Atria Books/Beyond Words Publishing. beyondword.com
Writing to Wake the Soul: Opening the Sacred Conversation Within
by Karen Hering.
Whether you approach this book primarily as a reader or a writer, you can open a rich correspondence with yourself and learn what your own heart has to say. Karen Hering offers a path of self-exploration and a contemplative practice of writing that engages memory and imagination, story and poetry, images and the timeless wisdom of world religions and mythology. It will open your ear to your own truths while opening your heart to the world around you.
About the Author
Karen Hering is a writer and ordained Unitarian minister. Her emerging ministry of poetry and story, Faithful Words, offers programs that engage writing as a spiritual practice and a tool for social action. Her writing has been published in numerous periodicals and anthologies, including the Amoskeag literary journal, the Star Tribune (Minneapolis), and Creative Transformation. She serves as a consulting literary minister in St. Paul, Minnesota. Visit her website at http://karenhering.com/