NORMAN — It’s been hard for me to figure out what to say to my congregation lately, realizing that I’m the one who is supposed to come up with words of hope and encouragement for them in this time of national insecurity.
It’s one of those times when I look around and think, “Oh, nuts ... I’m the grown-up in charge and I have to make it all make sense in 20 minutes or less for everyone.” Several people in my congregation have been furloughed and are bored, confused and fearful. Perhaps by the time this column is printed, they will each know more about what the government plans to do and about what that will mean for their job futures.
The Hebrew Scriptures, or Old Testament, are full of stories of people who had experienced hard time after hard time and still found a way to hang on, even if they had officially given up all hope in the process. Hagar and her toddler son were cast out into the wilderness to die, but about the time she turned away from her baby so she wouldn’t have to watch him die of exposure, she was shown a life-saving source of water. Job’s entire family was killed, and he had resigned himself to die childless and penniless (and covered with itchy, oozing sores) before he found himself with new babies and restored wealth. Jacob awoke the morning after his wedding to find that his father-in-law had switched daughters on him and tricked him into marrying the sister he didn’t love. He was made to wait seven more years until he could marry Rachel, surely giving up hope of being her husband many times before he saw his dream come true.
We are short on patience and long on misery. We don’t want to wait five minutes for a hamburger at the drive-thru, let alone seven years for a bride. We lose hope easily and give up on life, God, our families and our friends quickly. We forget that in the narrative of our lives, this lowest point we face right now might be the moment right before the plot turns for an upswing and the happy ending comes into view.
The God that is larger than the universe knows our most profound hurts, our nagging concerns, our unfathomable joys and our illogical dreams. We dream dreams that are too grandiose ever to be rational, possible, or even sensible, and cynicism drenches them like a spilled ice chest over a campfire. But God also dreamed a dream of a universe that would include us, which, as fallible, confused, stubborn and bellicose as we humans are, seems like an impossible or insensible dream in itself. But God has not lost hope in us, for whatever reason. God continues to create, to inspire and to encourage us. So, maybe if God dreams illogical dreams, then it’s OK if we dream those kinds of dreams, too.
Maybe it’s OK if we set down the burden of cynicism and hopelessness and embrace the idea that somehow, everything is going to work out. Maybe it’s OK if we see the best in each other, even if it’s not in vogue to do so. Maybe it’s OK if we encourage each other and trust each other, even when no one looks very trustworthy. Maybe it’s OK if we hold out hope for that little dream we have, even if everyone around us thinks it’s stupid, impractical or impossible. Maybe it’s OK if we cling to the bigger picture, remembering who we are and what we are destined to become. Turn the page and see what happens.