Chapter 14

This tool is God-centered and God-given:

HOPE

This is an awe-inspiring power. “Where there is life, there is hope.”

God has a way of opening my eyes at the most unexpected times. Recently, I was enjoying one of the daily cute dog pictures online: A dog lounging on a couch. Memories of my dog flooded back, as I noticed the white around the nose. I glanced at one of my pictures, thinking my sweetie had had a lot more white. Then I remembered vividly that last day. I went shopping for dog food because I was determined to be hopeful that we still had a little more time. If I could do it all over again, I would have stayed home and spent the time with her.

How did I respond to the memories evoked? I endeavored to sever hope from my life. All I could think was: What’s the point? If I hadn’t been trying to play at being optimistic, I would have had better memories of that heartbreaking day.

I have so many regrets in my life, and this seemed one of the biggest, because it wasn’t because I’d done something wrong. In point of fact, I’d been trying to do something right.

I found myself inconsolable. I became very good at squashing the hope that seemed to keep popping up in my life. There have been so many things that I’ve hoped for that were never realized, will never be realized, cannot be realized. (Add that to the negative tape in my head.)

And yet, in spite of my own wish to never experience the disappointment of unfulfilled hope again, I have always tried not to squash other people’s hope. I do realize that sometimes hope is all that stands between success and failure, and I have no right to dash the hopes of someone else.

I bristled at the “dream big” ideology, every time someone threw it at me. I did, and I fumbled the ball, over and over and over. I visualized. I invited success into my life. I thought positive thoughts.

I watched my dreams fade by virtue of the simple passage of time and a total lack of success. All the programs, tricks, and “enlightened ways” came to so much smoke and mirrors, leaving me with nothing but a sense of failure.

Even as I pushed hope away, again and again, the one thing I can say in my defense is that no matter how many times I was pushed into the mud, I never stayed there. I always struggled to my feet again. I refused to stay down. Sometimes, I like to think that I refused to give up because I didn’t want my abusers to win, but to be honest, I didn’t even think about my abusers. I was too busy trying to keep my head above water, because for some reason beyond my comprehension, I simply could not bring myself to stop trying.

Years ago, I heard a speech that I still remember. I tried to find the exact quote but couldn’t, but here’s how I remember it: “There comes a time in every life when nothing works, and it’s time to bring out the big guns: Hope.” This quote will flash through my mind at unexpected moments. It has been key in helping me to recognize why I could never quite manage to completely cut Hope from my life.

Hope is like the morning glory plant. No matter how much you try to pull it out, cut it out, poison it, it keeps coming back. I know there are those who are horrified at the thought of ridding one’s yard of morning glory. They haven’t had it in the garden, pushing out the peas they’re trying to grow! Morning glory can be eradicated by sterilizing the ground. Of course, nothing else can grow there either. I’m sure Hope can be eradicated, too, by choosing darkness instead of light.

Hope is not something we create within ourselves; Hope is a God-given gift, and as long as we are endeavoring to choose God, He will keep throwing Hope into our lives, whether we want it or not. It is a part of who He is, and He cannot help but share it.

I’m still wary of Hope, but understanding that it’s source is God, not me, helps me realize that I am not required to generate my own hope. God is going to send hope anyway, because it’s a part of who He is. As God is Love, God is Hope.

I’m learning that if I accept hope into my life, then it will grow and strengthen. Like love, I can share it with others, and it will not decrease but increase.

In the past, I have endeavored to starve it, but since it doesn’t come from me, all that is within my power to do is to diminish it within my own life. Gradually, I came to realize that what I was doing was sort of like choosing to eat the heel of a two-week old loaf of bread when I had an entire fresh loaf, straight from the oven, sitting in front of me, waiting. All I needed to do was reach out and accept it.

So, I’ve been practicing embracing hope in my life. With that thought in mind, I’m re-learning how to daydream, daydream about the future, about what I want. As a child, I daydreamed to escape. Then, with so many dreams shattered and scattered to the winds, daydreaming became more painful than helpful. So I stopped, for a long time. Now, I’m starting to daydream again, but I admit that I’m starting out small. And that’s perfectly acceptable.

Gradually, I’m learning that choosing to hope is admirable. It means that I have left the door open to a myriad of possibilities. It requires a great deal of courage to leave that door open, when so often it would be so much easier to close that door and walk away, although sometimes, that’s the best thing to do, the kindest, the wisest. Yes, another learning process. With time and experience, I’m learning when to leave the door open and when to close it. Did you know that sometimes God closes the door and opens a window? And sometimes God allows you to close the door, but He’ll still open a window.

For example, when my last job made some changes, I remained hopeful that I would still be needed. That belief allowed me to explore other options without panicking. When I finally learned that my job was going away, I already had other ideas I wanted to pursue. I was able to look at the change as a blessing. A frightening blessing, since I didn’t have a new steady income, but a blessing nonetheless to try something different, something I wouldn’t have done if I had stayed in the job where I was.

God will not “shove” or “pull” anyone through the doors and windows He opens (though I must admit that sometimes it feels like He has done exactly that, but then I remind myself that He believes in free will). Each person must choose, for themselves, whether or not they will take the next step. God will encourage, persuade, beckon, nudge, pursue, but He will not choose for us.

One of my very favorite writers asked in her blog if we believed in the power of optimism and hope, and if we had any experiences we were willing to share. I wasn’t sure how to respond. My first thought was very serious, and then a memory popped in: My younger brother nicknamed me Odie. Shortly thereafter, the comic strip published Garfield’s rant to Odie: “Who could possibly love a grinning idiot like you?” In the next block, it starts to rain, everywhere but on Odie. In the final block, Garfield looks up and yells, “You stay out of this!” I’ve had plenty of rain in my life, but I know God is always there, and there isn’t anything more joyous than sharing God’s blessings.

As I wrote this chapter, I waffled over discussing despair, the antithesis to hope. I have heard on more occasions than I care to remember that those in despair are so far away from God they are incapable of feeling His spirit in their life.

Really? What kind of logic is that?

Who needs God’s comfort more than those who are hopeless?

Who needs God’s love more than those who feel unlovable?

Who needs God’s healing more than those who are broken?

Who needs God’s grace more than a sinner?

And we are all sinners.

Why did Christ, Jesus, come to earth? To lead by example, to offer Himself as a sacrifice, and to rise again from the grave. What greater hope is there than that? Christ is Hope.

On Good Friday, blessedly, my Savior did not shirk but drank the bitter cup, for me, for each one of us, to overcome our sins, our hurts, our ills. He endured immeasurable suffering to save each soul who would accept His priceless gift.

Blessedly, God looks on the heart, and sees what I cannot. No matter how tattered or bruised, He sees with His perfect eyes of love and knows. Christ, the Savior, understands perfectly, to a depth I will never be able to imagine, sorrow and pain, brutality and injustice. In the darkest moments of my life, when suicide seemed a viable option, I would remind myself that Jesus understands my pain and sorrow perfectly, and He does not abandon His own. He is the Good Shepherd. He didn’t stay with the ninety and nine; He went searching for the one sheep that was lost, alone, hurt, hungry, dirty, afraid, and in despair of ever being found. Because of the Savior, there is always hope.

Never give up Hope, for if Hope is lost, then all is lost.

© 2010 The Project: The Tools I Wish I’d Known About Sooner / My Abuse Survivor’s Basic Toolkit by Judy

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