Replay and Rest: Imagination and Hope
In the third and final episode in our “Replay and Rest” series, we’ll revisit a conversation between Dan and Becky Allender as they reflect on the profound depths of rest we are invited to in Psalm 131.
We know that rest is of the utmost importance to recover from the toll that stress takes on our bodies, minds, and hearts. Here at The Allender Center, we are practicing what we teach and many of our team members are taking reduced work hours and vacation time during the month of July. In that spirit, we are choosing to re-air three popular past episodes that center around the theme of rest this month. Even if you have heard these before, we hope you will take the time to listen, reflect, and purposely make space for rest in your own life.
Dan: This series we’ve been considering Psalm 131 and its implications for living, as Becky said last time, like a human being. Allowing our hearts to receive the goodness of God in the land of the living so that our bodies and our hearts do not despair. And as we come to a conclusion, we’re coming to this final passage, oh, Israel, hope in the Lord now and forever. And it’s a very simple ending, but in many ways, I see it as the verse that in some ways comprehensive the entirety of the Psalm. If our hope is in the Lord, our character will not be bound to arrogance. If our hope is in the Lord, we will not be bound to disquiet, to living a life of frenzy, but there will be something about the nature of our hope in the Lord that allows us to be able to live a very different life than one that often comes, in the context, of our each, well individual lives and also this culture. And so as we begin to think about that beginning phrase O Israel, I just wanna say very quickly, what does the word Israel imply? Yes, it’s the name, of the nation of God, but it actually comes out of the story of Jacob, of wrestling with the angel of God and coming to a point of real humility, but also a point of great desire. And that is Jacob wrestles with the angel all night long as daybreak comes, he calls out for a blessing and the angel of the Lord for whatever reason doesn’t want to be caught in the day and so touches the very hip of Jacob. And in many ways, he now walks with a limp. There’s a lot in this passage, but what I want to come to is the fact that when we say, Oh Israel, really what we’re saying is, oh, those who wrestle with God, those who indeed, are naked, cross the jabbek, enter into a nighttime brawl with someone whom you don’t know, but has equal power if not greater. And you wrestle with it implies for those us who indeed know something of the manipulative, deceptive, complex inner world of Jacob also know that our heart’s desire is indeed to be face to face with God. So when we begin to talk about hope, it isn’t just hope in some kind of mild mannered, oh, I hope things get better. A whim, meer fleeting desires, really the depths of what our hearts most deeply, deeply long for. And that is the very presence of God. So when we talk about hope, when we are wrestling with God, I wanna underscore that hope is not easy. For the most part, we’re not fond of hope. It is a complex reality. So again, Becky, thank you for joining me. What do you wanna say initially about hope?
Becky: Well, I wanna also agree with that of hoping in the Lord God, and I do hope in him in his word and, I don’t know anything greater to hope in than that. And it would, for me seem, very deplete to not have the hope of Jesus.
Dan: Well, and I often get blamed for taking on Hallmark cards. I don’t really have anything against the company, but often Hallmark has cards which offer hope. And yet the hope feels just as I put it; flimsy, fleeting, just a sort of a strong wish on behalf. But when we talk about hope, it has a kind of confidence, a strength about it. That deed has an assurance. Not necessarily I’ll get what I want, but what I want at the very core of who I am, I will receive. And that sense of hope as something that in one sense, holds the dreams of the deepest part of my heart that I anticipate with an eagerness to allow me to suffer that is to bleed for what it is I dream and therefore endure. Actually defiantly. So what I’ve just put words to are four core categories that we’re gonna come back to, hope always dreams. It anticipates, it suffers, and it has the capacity to endure. So when you think about dreaming and in the midst of that kind of well, hope against hope, oh, hope in the midst of something that has caused you to feel hopeless. What does hope do for you and what does it do for us as we engage?
Becky: Well, that’s pretty large question. Okay. What Is hope? Well, I think hope keeps me going for one. I think hope brings hope. It, it livens me. It makes well life worth living, so to speak
Dan: Well, when I think about dreaming, in some ways, it is the ability to imagine what is not in the face of what can change. So it isn’t just an illusion, a kind of, oh, I just want heaven now. Well, of course we do. But in the reality that likely we will tary, another day, another week, another month, or a number of years, the fact is dreaming redemption for ourselves. We’re to dream in one sense, a completion of a task because in that there is a fullness, a Shalom that we are meant to enter. And so the capacity to dream, to allow our hearts to envision what is not yet, but is yet meant to be. I think that is one of the hardest things about allowing your heart to desire. And when we do that I know that my heart is meant to anticipate that completion, even if it takes weeks, months, years to come into fruition. I remember at one point, we did something quite foolish and yet it was actually brilliant. And that is you wanted to build, our own home. And we had a number of friends who built homes, and they gave us counsel and direction. But I remember saying to you, I mean, I wanna be involved. I wanna be as involved as humanly possible, but if you want this dream, it’s gonna have to be something you take, the lion share to create. And I remember you looking at me like, I don’t know if I’m for it, but you’re clearly not going to take it on as your dream. And so your dream ended up over, how long a period of time?
Becky: Trying to get the lot?
Dan: That took…
Becky: That was almost a year and a half. And then to build nine months, I guess.
Dan: Yeah. But, even the lot, what did you need to do?
Becky: Every day for a year and a half, I would call at eight. O’clock the sales office.
Dan: Carrie, you called Carrie.
Becky: I said, good morning, Carrie. Good morning, Becky. Is the lot available today? No, it’s not. All right, Carrie goodbye. So we did that every morning…
Dan: For a year and a half. Yeah. Do you remember the moment?
Becky: Yeah. When he said it’s available, you’ve got 48 hours before I, you know, let other people at it, which was a horribly, not convenient time financially for us, but we went with it. I think it was a dream that we just, we went with.
Dan: Well, I don’t want to critique that we did go with it, but you went with it. It was far more your dream and the process. I remember meeting with the architect, and the builder, and we began to frame ideas. In other words, a dream has to actually move into an anticipatory process where you start laying out the infrastructure, you lay out something of the plan. And, we came to an architectural, I think from your standpoint, the dream turned into a nightmare. And, and in that moment, you had to step in.
Becky: Yep. I did. I went to a girlfriend and she looked at the quarter-inch plans and said, they’re not listening to you get on the phone. And she might have even dialed the phone for me in her own, house. But yeah, I did have to halt everything ’cause it wasn’t looking how I wanted it to look. But the men had a different idea.
Dan: Yeah. It was three to one.
Becky: I had to face them down.
Dan: Well, and, and that’s in part what I mean by eagerness creates. So you dream and there has to be an eager movement to create, but in the creation, I think most of the hope, whether it’s been a book that I’ve written or a conference that I’ve I’ve planned and then, provided or executed, the fact is there’s always disillusion that in the midst of that. Always a form of suffering. That’s going to go on as the dream, in one sense plops in front of you and then requires more as you create.
Becky: Well, yeah, it just takes on a life of its own. And I think you need to be steadfast and you have to like hang onto that, that initial hope where, you know, you felt you needed to be hopeful to go on. It was the mission.
Dan: Well, in that process, again, to underscore the interplay between suffering and endurance, there was something really, really disruptive, about coming back to the architect and the other two, meaning the builder and me and saying, this is not what I want. I want something that looks like this. And I think we all felt, a level of irritation and disappointment that the plans that we had kind of created or what I thought we created together, actually weren’t at all. So that disruptive voice that has to come in the creative process is one that, at least I saw you do. And then, the endurance, I remember at one point saying to you, look, if there are significant problems, I will always step in, but I want you to take the first and second swing at dealing with the problem, which required of you a level of endurance, that, I’m not sure in that realm you had done quite as you had done.
Becky: Yeah. You set me up for that. It was, um, good and horrible both. ‘Cause I did realize my strength, my voice, my understanding of how we could work with the plans to change them. And yeah, I don’t remember you even offering to step in. I remember you saying, I can’t do any of this, my life is too hard as it is. So if you wanna do this baby, you gotta do it yourself. And I think there was only twice that you found me on the floor crying and you stepped in those two times to help me out.
Dan: Well I think maybe I’m, I’m lauding myself with something that you’re questioning. But I think we had a keen understanding that this dream was yours. Ours. If you’re gonna run with it, you’re gonna have to actually suffer and stay with it. And there were twice, two times, where it did seem like the baton needed to be passed, but all this again, to come back to say whether you’re building a house, a new business, writing a book, or simply having the dream of your children coming to live more deeply in the things of God, you are always going to have imagination as part of your dreaming. You’re gonna begin thinking, seeing what the future holds and then with anticipation and eagerness beginning to build it, then suffering, almost always. So a hope comes to at least some point of disillusionment where we in many ways feel shattered. Again, don’t have a naive view of hope that everything will work out. This is what we’re actually being invited by God to: hope in him requires our imagination, our eagerness, our suffering, and back to that notion of defiant, steadfastness, where even the data that we are in the midst of disaster has to be engaged by moving forward. So if we’re actually being called by God to hope in him, then it has to be in one sense a full-bodied hope. But I wanna take us back to what we talked about in our last podcast. And that is how do you find ways to quiet your own heart and to know calm in a way that actually is part of that way of living out the hope of the gospel, the hope of the goodness of God and the land of the living and your ways, I think are different than mine. I’ve certainly joined you in some, but it hasn’t been my primary way.
Becky: Well, since coming to the Northwest and some of the extremes of darkness and rain that I was feeling is, I found a yoga studio with different teachers and it allows me to just be strong. I love that each day, it’s a challenge. I’m becoming more flexible and I’m building muscle and I’m perfecting my posture and preventing joint breakdown, all sorts of these things, which I embody and in the embodiment of doing these things for what’s ahead is like, it’s gonna be more important to take care of my body from here on out. And that’s what I think I’m called to do, given that we’re made in the image of God and we live within a body. ThenI see that as really, really important of excelling in strength and breath and endurance. And I think it actually does carry over when I’m trying to hold a pose, that’s really, really hard. I’m realizing, I can do this. And so therefore sometimes in the midst of battle, whether it’s people or my own family, I need to be flexible. I need to be strong. I need to have all sorts of postures in my body that allow for wellness to sustain all the days of my life left on earth.
Dan: Well, and I’ve done yoga with you, not recently because of the provocation of vertigo when I’ve done certain poses. But what I find is you have to have something that allows your body to know peace, calm, even in the midst of the disruptions of the day and my heart and mind of course goes to fly fishing. And that sense of being able to imagine being on a river, and there’s a particular river I fished for over 25 years. And I know that river, I know about eight miles of that river, almost Boulder by Boulder. And in that process of being in a world in which my body feels a great deal of disquiet, I don’t know calm. Simply imagining being back there this summer or just being there in my mind becomes one of the ways that my body begins to know hope. And I begin to literally look forward, not just to fishing later this year, but even now imagining the rod moving, the fly being on the water, of fish rising, the process of all that. And again, to say, of course, hope requires suffering. I have to be in shape to be able to do the work of being on this particular river. And so I have to work out two, three times a week in anticipation of being able to keep being on the river for as many years as I live. So what holds for you? The pleasure of the anticipation of heaven? I think that’s, in many ways, what we’re being invited when the Psalmist says now and forevermore, I think he’s not only saying now and then a year from now two years from now, but our hope is not only in the moment, but in the process of what redemption will bring when we stand before him face-to-face. So what gives you a taste of a coming banquet, the glory that will one day be yours in utter fullness. And I think that can be for some people, a taste of a really expensive, but rich Cabernet. I think it can be, you know, a falafel from one of the finest places in the Jewish sector of Paris. I mean, you need to have the imagination of both your body and your soul’s imagination taking in goodness. And if you will allow that to be a common practice, I mean, you practice yoga as much as you can when we’re in town, daily, six days a week, often five to six days a week. And I think it holds for you even when you are not in the studio. I don’t know if you think about the studio and a pose, like I do the anticipation of a fish rising, but there is a sense in which your imagination is involved, even as you think about a pose.
Becky: Absolutely. Yes, your imagination, your body, your breathing, you’re all encompassed, your balance… just it… I love that you’re really testing all the muscles and, even breathing. I’ve learned so much just from breathing and health. So I do like it. I love, I love just being with a group of people too and, and practicing.
Dan: Well, that is what we’re inviting you to. Um, what can you engage today? It could be a bath, perhaps you won’t pick up a fly rod, or go to a studio, but there are things you can begin to do that allow you, as Becky said last time to become, to enter your humanity of your own body and heart. What can you do that allows your heart to be quiet and calm, to not be proud and haughty. To not take on matters too great or too awesome for you and whatever the Psalm is pointing you to. It really is pointing us back to what it is we’re most meant to enjoy in relationship with Jesus. Relationship with him is not ethereal. It is not so spiritual that it does not involve the things of this earth and the matters of our heart’s greatest delight. The more we participate in that, the more we are gonna know peace.