Sunday, August 13, 2017

What is our hope?

I recently came upon Mary Jo Balistreri's lyrical, poignant essay, At the Window, in Issue 13 (spring 2017) of Minerva Rising. Balistreri was 71 when she wrote the essay, speaking of the present and the past, of her dead grandsons and her dying daughter, and her own failing body.

I re-read the essay during a week when I learned of two deaths. I met Bill, who was about my age, in the early 1980s; I last saw him a few years ago in Yosemite. He died in an automobile accident earlier this month. The next day, Marshall, 71, perished in an airplane crash. I served with Marshall several years ago in the coffee and hospitality crew at our church's San Mateo site.

My mind turned toward my own future as these events, and Balistreri's essay, seeped into my consciousness. I reminded myself that every day is a gift, that life is uncertain. And I thought about hope. Yesterday morning, the lovely Carol read to me from Frederick Buechner's Secrets in the Dark (HarperCollins, 2006) [author's site]:

To remember the past is to see that we are here today by grace, that we have survived as a gift.

And what does that mean about the future? What do we have to hope for, you and I? Humanly speaking, we have only the human best to hope for: that we will live out our days in something like peace and the ones we love with us; that if our best dreams are never to come true, neither at least will our worst fears; that something we find to do with our lives will make some little difference for good somewhere; and that when our lives end we will be remembered a little while for the little good we did. That is our human hope.

op. cit. pp. 63–64, in “A Room Called Remember”
Buechner goes on to describe a better, fuller hope.
Then death shall be no more, neither shall there be any mourning or crying. Then shall my eyes behold him and not as a stranger. Then his Kingdom shall come at last and his will shall be done in us and through us and for us.
loc. cit.
This is hope indeed. We pray to God, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” but speaking for myself I often fail to do what I know to be his will. Love my enemies, pray for my persecutors? I have the hope that one day I'll be fully willing and able to do all that.

But for today, I put one foot in front of the other. I ask for help. I fall down. I get up. And I remember, or try to, what God has done in my life and in the world, and I hope.

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