A Path Forward
Scripture: Exodus 1:15-21
“Hope presupposes the future will be better. I don’t know if I believe that but I believe we must try to make it better…Shining a light on the darkness into which I am proceeding gives other people light to see by, even if we are stumbling down the same dark path of uncertainty.
…I think my actions can make life better for someone, even if that someone isn’t me, but I don’t always feel it.”
– Lev Mirov, Resistance and Hope
Many times in my life I’ve chosen to be cynical because hope felt too vulnerable. I’ve bailed out on friendships when conflict seemed to thick to wade through. I’ve left places of employment because I couldn’t imagine conditions improving, or that advocating for my needs would be received well.
Can we practice hope when we have little reason to believe things will improve?
I think so, though it’s certainly harder.
I think about those times in my life when I wasn’t sure things would ever change, and how the smallest kindnesses kept me going. I think often we want to be able to fix someone’s problems or solve someone’s grief when really small moments of kindness are enough. In most instances, a person’s anger or frustration or sadness could not be solved by one other person anyway, even if we did have a perfect answer. If we wait till we have the grand, sweeping solution we miss a thousand opportunities for presence and caring along the way.
Making a path forward comes slowly, and with intention. Discernment requires both good information, listening, and space to let the pieces of my life an the pieces of any given situation fall where they are. Acting in hope means identifying those intersections of life experience, ability, and an anxious situation and then acting upon them.
My bent is always toward more information. When I was writing my book I got completely blocked at the end of chapter two, which would have made for a very short book. My first instinct was to go to the library, to check out more books, to dig through more research. If I didn’t know what to say, then perhaps knowing more stuff would help?
It didn’t matter that I had already read thousands of pages across dozens of books on the subject, what I needed was more information! Or so I thought. A professor challenged me to just sit down and write instead and accept that I would likely never feel like I had exhausted all of the research available to me. He was right.
Today, choose a path other than your most natural one in a given situation.
Are you an information junkie? Stop researching for today. Take a walk outside or sit in silence and consider how to integrate the information you do know into your life. How does your knowledge inform your practice of hope?
If your bent is toward numbing or distracting yourself, how do you bravely look at your life and the life of your community to see what is going on and how you can show up in hope for others? Set a timer for ten, fifteen or twenty minutes and commit to gathering good information on a situation you’ve been avoiding.
Maybe you’re a “fixer.” You don’t look away from difficult situations, but the pain they cause is intolerable for you, so you try to fix things. Everything. All the things. All the time. Today, slow down. Sit in a quiet space with yourself. Where does the pain or the anxiousness of seeing the problems in your family or community show up in your body? Can you be with yourself or someone else in this grief and not fix it? Can you choose today to believe that your presence is enough?
In times when I find myself feeling compelled to dig incessantly for more information, I try to pause and ask myself “what is mine to do? What is not mine?” I think about Shiphrah and Puah, who didn’t themselves lead the Israelites out of their enslavement in Egypt, but whose faithfulness in their midwifery paved a way for Moses to do so later.
Hope means showing up for your life, not someone else’s, all things considered, and being faithful in whatever is before you today