Nothing is more destabilizing to a person than when they reach for hope and it isn’t there. I think perhaps no work of art I’ve ever encountered captures the tenuous and precious strands that keep us tethered to hope like Shawshank does. I learned from it – from this last scene in particular – that hope is based not in the dispositions of the heart, but in relationship.
Hope is no less tethered to “the other” than love.
Love characterizes a relationship, a way of being in community with other people, places, and things. Hope is experienced in precisely the same way. Hope is not a characteristic of the personality, hope is not an attitude, nor is hope the act of an autonomous individual. Hope is found, known, experience, and expressed through relationship.
When do we reach for hope and find that is not there? Is it not when there is no one there to teach us to hope? To remind us to hope when we have forgotten? When we reach for someone to speak to us the words of hope and we find no one there – that is when we despair.
The simple fact is that I need you if I am to live in hope. You need me for the same. We cannot hope in absolute solitude because hope does not come from within, but from without – ultimately from Jesus who is the source of our hope, and whose hope is mediated to us through the crazy hopers known as the people of God.
To hope is nothing more than to have experienced the wonder and grace of another who hopes in you, hopes for you, hopes with you.
As God is the source of all love, so God is the source of all hope. Hope comes to us not through genetics or heredity, but in the experience of our relationships with a people who have learned to live in hope.
Living in hope in the face of darkness is an act of profound rebellion and insurrection. Those who learn to say as Buechner wrote, “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid,” (Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words), are more powerful than all of the darkness the world has to offer.
We live, often times, on the razor’s edge between hope and despair. One path leads to life, the other to death. The choice can sometimes be that stark: “Get busy living or get busy dying.” One of my favorite theologians says it this way, “Totally without hope one cannot live. To live without hope is to cease to live. Hell is hopelessness. It is no accident that above the entrance to Dante’s hell is the inscription: “Leave behind all hope, you who enter here.” (Jurgen Moltmann A Theology of Hope). To leave behind hope is only possible when we leave each other behind as well – when we leave behind the people who are nurtured and formed by hope.
Oh how desperately we need one another. For it seems the precious tethers between the soul and hope are comprised of relationships with other defiant, resplendent, faithful, and fractured hopers.