Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Spiritual Journey Thursday: Hope

I'm hosting our gathering this month, and our theme is Hope. (Welcome, SJT buddies! Leave your link in the comments and I will gradually round up, old-school, as the day goes on. Your comments won't appear immediately because I've enabled moderation, but I will get to them as time and Haiti internet permit.)

I signed up for this, and selected the theme, at the end of last year. Hope was the word I'd chosen to focus on as I headed into 2020. Here's the post I wrote about my word choice back in January.  I didn't pick it because I was feeling hopeful; in fact, sort of the reverse. Our 2019 had been quite hopeless here in Haiti, where I live, and there wasn't much of a reason to think that things would be getting better, because none of the underlying issues had been resolved in any way. I picked Hope because I wanted some, and wanted to commit to looking for it.

So, I've been looking. Trying to infuse hopefulness into my days. Not easy, as the news has been bad, here and in my passport country, the United States. Our political situation has indeed not been fixed. Our economy is in a shambles. Our COVID-19 numbers go up each day. (I'm talking about Haiti, but draw your own comparisons with the US.) The enthusiasm and optimism my students always help me find have been more difficult given our distance learning situation. My friends, who often encourage me, have left the country or retreated to their homes. And we're watching the traumatic events in the United States in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.

I've been trying to live the Henri Nouwen quote from my January post linked above.
"I have found it very important in my own life," Nouwen writes, "to try to let go of my wishes and instead to live in hope. I am finding that when I choose to let go of my sometimes petty and superficial wishes and trust that my life is precious and meaningful in the eyes of God something really new, something beyond my own expectations begins to happen for me. To wait with openness and trust is an enormously radical attitude toward life. It is choosing to hope that something is happening for us that is far beyond our own imaginings. It is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life. It is living with the conviction that God molds us in love, holds us in tenderness, and moves us away from the sources of our fear."

Giving up control over our lives isn't really that hard to do when you demonstrably don't have any control.  I'm at home. The borders of this country are closed. The airport is closed. As we finished up school this past week, we headed into a summer that will be pretty similar to the last two and a half months, and before that, our whole second quarter of school. We're locked down, folks.

I've been quoting Walter Brueggemann a lot lately in my SJT posts, and it seems a good habit to continue, because he always infuses me with courage and hope.
Here he quotes Psalm 69: "'Save me, O God...I have come into deep waters. In...your steadfast love,...rescue me...from the deep waters.' Under threat, ... this psalm refuses to host the idea that chaos is limitless. The very act of the prayer is an affirmation that watery chaos has limits, boundaries, and edges, because the waters butt up against the power of God. ... We are not watching simply the unbounded power of chaos savage the earth. We are rather watching chaos push to its extreme limit, doing its worst, most destructive work, and spending itself without finally prevailing. The psalm invites us to honesty about the threat. More than that, however, the psalm is buoyant in its conviction that all around the chaos, guarding its rise, monitoring its threat, is the counterpower of life, only haunting and shadowing, not too soon evident, but abidingly there. This voice of faith acknowledges the chaos, but then submits it to the larger power of God. So Jesus in that supreme moment of threat, does not yield, but announces in evangelical triumph, 'It is finished.' It is decided! It is accomplished! It is completed in triumph!"
Brueggemann is talking about Good Friday here, and in that story the worst happens. Jesus really does die. But it turns out that Good Friday doesn't have the last word.
"But what to do midst the threat?" he goes on. "Do what believing and trusting Jews and Christians have always done. Refuse the silence, reject despair, resist the devastating, debilitating assault of chaos, and speak a counterspeech. This psalm is not simply a passive, pious act of trust in God. It is rather a bold, abrasive speech that addresses God in the imperative, and in the utterance of the imperative, puts chaos on notice that we will not yield, will not succumb, will not permit the surging of chaos to define the situation. ... God comes into the deep waters at the behest of the faithful who watch in the night and who know that chaos is not normal, and must not be docilely accepted."
I could go on quoting, but I highly recommend you find Brueggemann's Collected Sermons and read them all. (And by the way, when I was looking for that link to his sermons, I found out he's published a book about the virus already - it came out at the end of April. I don't know anything about the book but I'm betting it's good. Here it is.)

I'm looking forward to reading what other SJT folks have to say about hope. And if you're not a regular SJT poster but you have something to say, leave it in the comments, either what you have to say, or a link to what you have to say. We're eager to read it!

Here's the roundup:

Do you know what a tetractys is? As Carol Varsalona points out in her post, it sounds like a dinosaur, but it's actually a kind of poem, and she has written one to remind us of reasons to hope during this season. You can read this and the rest of her post here.

Linda Mitchell took the Henri Nouwen quote from my post, listed the verbs, and then wrote a hopeful poem with them. Here it is.

Karen Eastlund is sad about the loss of communal singing and the hope it brings. You can read what she wrote here. It is hard to imagine not singing!

Margaret Simon wrote about where hope comes from and what we should do with it, here.

Fran Haley's post is about racism, and how it causes hopelessness. She asks how we can change the way children see society. You can read her answers here.

Ramona found a poem in the Bible about hope; she used words from Colossians and Hebrews to inspire herself, and us. Here's that post.


Carol Varsalona said...

Ruth, your post was full of inspiration as we waddle in the muddle of quarantine life. These lines made me ponder, "puts chaos on notice that we will not yield, will not succumb, will not permit the surging of chaos to define the situation." I am committed this month to keep my life in balance and find the gift of hope waiting for me even when I don't think I can handle one more task. Thank you for your thoughts and for hosting. My blog is at

Linda Mitchell said...

Ruth, what a wonderful and rich post for Spiritual Thursday. I did a close read of Nouwen's quote by identifying the verbs...which then became the basis of my post. I really enjoyed responding to Nouwen in this way. Thanks for hosting. Linda M.
A Word Edgewise:

Karen Eastlund said...

Ruth, thank you so much for hosting and for this thoughtful and honest post. I especially love the Brueggemann quote talking about God coming into deep waters. With us!! May God be with you in Haiti. And please join me at for a favorite song.

Margaret Simon said...

Ruth, thanks for your insights about hope. I'm feeling hopeless, too, but write about how I can be more of an instrument to change. Thanks for hosting.

Fran Haley said...

Hi, Ruth, and first - thank you for hosting today. We are all walking a troubled spiritual journey at present ... I, like you, consider myself a usually hopeful person and found it hard to write about it today. I think Margaret and I may be on something of the same wavelength. I will read hers to see ... now let me thank you for the Psalm reminder that all hope is not lost, even at the darkest hour; hope lies just on the other side, and God is with us. I do not doubt. Grief and sorrow just weigh heavy ... we all have a part to play in our collective healing. Your words today are a stepping-stone toward it.
- Fran Haley

Ramona said...

Ruth, thanks for hosting today and for choosing hope as your OLW not because you felt hopeful, but because you wanted to commit to looking for it. I always enjoy your posts and the words you share. the words you shared are a call to action: "...God comes into the deep waters at the behest of the faithful who watch in the night and who know that chaos is not normal, and must not be docilely accepted." Your invitation to write sent me in search of hopeful words and I found mine in scripture.

Ramona said...

Here's my link: