So I'm home, after a 14 hour drive all day Saturday. It was so weird to be home. I stayed up for like three more hours, reading the Semester blogs, bios, and notes, looking at pictures, remembering...
We went to church this morning, which was really good. It was good to see friends again. And I really needed the sermon, on hope, today being the first Sunday of Advent.
I'm not gonna lie, I don't feel like being hopeful right now. My heart is still looking back, longing for my new family and the home we had at Snow Wolf Lodge. I'd honestly rather wallow in the "400 silent years" for at least a few more days, musing and contemplating and grieving, in a sense, rather than jump back in wholeheartedly into life.
Yet I'm called to more than this.
To quote my new favorite article ("Telling the World Its Own Story," Richard John Neuhaus):
All of us who have contended to be Christian disciples, to be faithful, know times in which we are tempted to despair and to feel that we are a part not only of a minority enterprise but a failing and perhaps definitively failed enterprise. But we have not the right to despair, for despair is a sin. And finally we have not the reason to despair, quite simply because Christ has risen.
As Dr. Dunagin reminded us this morning, God broke the the silence of 400 years with the command: "Fear not!" Of all of Jesus' commands, almost 20% of these were spent telling us not to fear.
His main points: Fear robs us of joy and hope. It causes us to doubt God's goodness, and fear produces "spiritual amnesia." Fear drains us of generosity; it causes us to seek safety first, which drains us of love. On the other hand, joy is deep and firm and abiding. Joy flourishes in the midst of pain and struggle.
Currently, I am wrestling more with fear and despair than I am with hope and joy. I'm not sure how to best keep up the friendships I've made these past three months. I'm scared of finding/creating a community here at home like the one I've just come from and of developing deep friendships that sharpen like iron. I'm not sure what lies ahead, and I don't really like that.
Yet this is why hope and joy are so essential. They aren't abstract ideas that only work when life is good and the world is happy. Hope and joy sustain us when everything else is falling apart because hope and joy can't just be mustered up inside us when we feel down. They come as a result of tremendous sacrifice.
Optimism is not a Christian virtue. Optimism is simply a matter of optics, of seeing what you want to see and opting not to see what you don't want to see.
We are hopeful, filled with hope, which is a very different thing. Hope is a virtue of having looked unblinkingly into all the reasons for despair, into all of the reasons that would seem to falsify hope, and to say, "Nonetheless Christ is Lord. Nonetheless this is the story of the world. Nonetheless this is a story to which I will surrender myself day by day." Not simply on one altar call, but as the entirety of one's life, in which every day is a laying of your life on the altar of the Lord Jesus Christ being offered up in perfect sacrifice to the Father.
And will we overcome? Will we prevail? We have overcome and have prevailed ultimately because He has overcome and He has prevailed. There are days in which you and I get discouraged. On those days I tell myself — I suppose almost every day I tell myself, sometimes several times a day — those marvelous lines from T. S. Eliot's "East Coker," where Eliot says, "For us there is only the trying. The rest is not our business."
For us there is only the trying. The rest is not our business. Some people read those lines as lines of resignation, kind of shrugging your shoulders and saying, "What can you do?" But I read them as lines of vibrant hope. The rest is not our business. The rest is God's business.
Thank God, we are not God. Thank God, God is God.