Waiting, and then living, into hope

Posted 12/13/19

French author Alexandre Dumas made a provocative claim when he said, “All human wisdom is contained in these two words: ‘Wait’ and ‘Hope.’”

Wisdom is rooted in reality, including …

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Waiting, and then living, into hope

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French author Alexandre Dumas made a provocative claim when he said, “All human wisdom is contained in these two words: ‘Wait’ and ‘Hope.’”

Wisdom is rooted in reality, including painful truths, and waiting is a part of the human experience. Try as they might, children cannot make the days before Christmas pass more quickly. Neither can anyone part a traffic jam like Moses before the Red Sea. We must wait in the ER and in the airport terminal.

We must wait because we are not in control.

So, we must wait for admission letters and biopsy reports; we must wait for summer vacation to arrive and for a soldier to return; we must wait for a child to be born and a loved one to die. All we can do is wait…

Yet Dumas’ point is that we can control how we wait.

As the Buddha taught, the bright moon does not leave the night sky because dark clouds obscure it. Neither does our best self disappear when concealed behind thoughts that are unwanted or anxiety-producing. When the storms of life arrive, we can be patient, trusting that this, too, shall pass.

Especially in Advent, Christianity teaches to wait with hope — apocalyptic hope. “Apocalyptic” does not mean “doomsday” but rather refers to what is “to be revealed.” Like the moon behind the clouds, we are waiting for great beauty to be uncovered. We are not in control of time, but we can control our attention and focus. We can wait with hope, then live into that hope.

Apocalyptic hope is often misunderstood as a call for escapism, as if the point was to fly to the moon! Hope does not give us an excuse to withdraw from the world, but rather inspires us to engage in positive, moral behaviors. Perhaps, then, we should look for inspiration to hope much closer than the moon.

As poet Wendell Berry wrote in “A Poem on Hope” — find your hope on the ground under your feet. This is a call for hopeful action. With the apocalyptic predictions about the cataclysmic effects of climate change, it can be hard to find hope. True, there is much beyond our control…

Yet, if we control our thoughts and focus our attention, we will find reasons for hope.

I find hope in solar panels and wind turbines, in compost buckets and beehives, in electric cars and every living tree. I find hope in teenagers protesting human-made climate change. Especially this time of year, I think about the abiding wisdom of an ancient prophecy that a little child shall lead them.

With childlike faith, may you find your hope on the ground under your feet. Don’t be discouraged. Be determined to work for positive change. Maybe you don’t agree with Dumas’ contention that “wait” and “hope” summarize all human wisdom. But it is wise to claim that the time is always right to live into hope.

My daughter turned 2 years old the Sunday before Thanksgiving. I was reminded that, for all of my impatience, time actually moves quite fast. I hope she will come of age in a safer, cleaner, and kinder world. Let’s come together to fulfill this hope for future generations.

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the poet pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church and the author of the book Gently Between the Words.


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