Hope in Times of Chaos

plant in sunshine

A couple weeks ago my husband, Sean, and I were visiting with my brother and sister-in-law in Astoria, Oregon for Thanksgiving weekend. At nearly 5 am on Sunday morning my phone began to ring. I leapt out of bed to turn off the 800 number, incensed that a telemarketer would call this early in the morning, and on a Sunday. A few minutes after this my phone began to ring again. It was my husband’s mom calling on FaceTime. I didn’t have time to answer the phone before her text message popped up. “I just got a call from your security company. An internal motion detector has gone off in your house.”

My stomach dropped. I shook Sean awake and showed him the message. We have already had multiple incidents at our house, and my body was filled with terror thinking of what was going happen with us five hours away. Why didn’t I think about the 800 number being our security system? How long would it take for the police to get there? Had they found and taken my laptop? What about our filing cabinet? How would this impact the experience of violation we would feel in our home? Questions swirled in my mind quicker than I even had time to process them.

How do we hope in the midst of chaos?

To long for intimacy or safety felt like too much of an agony for my heart, and I had learned well how to numb that longing through a false sense of control over my ability to be loved or have a place to dwell.

For most of my life I have had a war with hope. Hope is a risky thing to have in this world. As a Christian I believe there is a Hope that doesn’t disappoint. Especially in this season of Advent and Christmas I am reminded of the Hope that stepped into the chaos – fully God and fully Man – to reconcile all of creation back to a trajectory of Shalom. But as a woman who has suffered harassment, abuse, heartache, and loss, even this Hope often can feel so distant. I learned at a young age to cope with disappointment and pain through killing my hope. By the time that I was nineteen years old my experiences with men taught me I would never find a good man who would be romantically interested in me. I needed to not allow myself to hope for marriage. I confirmed this through shaving my head completely bald and telling myself that I was choosing to not be chosen. I made a commitment to not care what men thought about me. Thus I would not have to worry about disappointment, longing, or heartache. I had also understood that danger and harm were ever present, so I would not hope for safety or security. When I was a missionary, I spent most of my nights being hosted in a hut or shack in a war torn region of Northern Uganda by people I had just met that day, often men (I have written before about my experiences in Uganda). I often tempted fate with an attitude that could say, “See, safety is not a real thing.” To long for intimacy or safety felt like too much of an agony for my heart, and I had learned well how to numb that longing through a false sense of control over my ability to be loved or have a place to dwell.

The year 2017 has proved to be a year of trudging ungracefully back into hope. I have married to a man who feels better than I deserve, and we have bought a house in a city where it is nearly impossible. Yet in each of these steps towards hope the war has ramped up. The terror of my husband suddenly going missing or dying, or the fear of our house being ripped out from under us haunt me nearly every day. Sean has had sudden bouts with his health in the last year and has been diagnosed with one autoimmune disease while currently undergoing tests to find out if there is a second. Through experiencing this and multiple break-ins at our house, the voice of despair has worked hard to beckon me back into the false security of fatalism and futility. I have found my body filled with a rage that I have not allowed myself to feel for a long while. As I have stepped out to hope for more, it has made me more vulnerable to pain, to hurt, and to disappointment. It has opened me up to the question “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” And yet through all of these emotions and questions there has also been redemption and healing.

If we are willing to step out in defiance towards the forces that come to tarnish hope, then we can embark on a true healing journey.

God has brought me on a journey in the past five years to re-awaken my heart to hope. Through the disappointments and heartaches in 2017 He has re-awakened my heart to the reasons why I made resolutions to kill my hope in the first place. God has been ever present through my grief, rage, even my hatred. I have not felt a pressure to dismiss or “get over” my emotions, but I have felt like God has been holding me in the midst of my emotions as a good mother contains the fits of rage from her toddler. The Lord has reminded me that the Incarnation, Jesus coming to earth, has opened the door to my Creator who was the first to ask, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Yes, Hope is hard. It can feel like it will kill you. It can make you ask why you even bothered in the first place. But if we are willing to step out in defiance towards the forces that come to tarnish hope, then we can embark on a true healing journey. Hope is dangerous for us, but ultimately Hope is most dangerous and threatening towards the evil that works so hard to destroy it. Hope calls us to a better world. It calls us towards healthier relationships. Hope beckons us into a new imagination for what Eden was, and what Eternity will be.

Hope invites us to join the song of Mary proclaiming the blessing, mighty deeds, and good things to those who fear the Lord. These promises were catapulted into the world through her son Jesus Christ. Jesus, the ultimate Hope, joined humanity through the incarnation that we may now have a Savior who can empathize with us and hold us in our anger, our rage, our war to hope in a promise that has been, that is, and that is yet to come. This war asks us to be a people that cry tears of grief and loss on our behalf and the behalf of others, because ultimately this opens us up to the grief of the Hope that entered the world and who was beaten and crucified by it. It also asks us to cry tears of joy for the celebrations in our lives and the lives around us, for these points to the joy of Resurrection. It will also ask us to bleed from the battle of refusing to let the enemy win by killing hope.

May we be bold enough this Advent season to remember and respond to the One who invaded a world of chaos with Faith, Hope, and Love in order to bring us into a battle towards peace.