Spiritual Practices From the Inside Out: Discerning Hope

Hope is the spark which lights the fire of inspiration. Without hope, why would we go on trying?

What is hope? Some people say hope is a feeling, or a positive attitude. People tell me they are more hopeful in the morning, less hopeful as the day continues.

Some people tell me we receive what we are looking for, what we expect to receive. Now, I do not know about you, but there have been plenty of times when life did not go as I expected. It did not help me to clarify and articulate my desire, it still did not happen. We may be able to explain or even justify when that takes place, but it still did not happen. What I hoped for did not come true.

I believe hope is more than just getting more of what I want. Hope is something deeper, more sacred than what I expect.

Hope for Lent

My church is just beginning a liturgical season called Lent. Many people choose to either give something up or begin a new discipline during Lent, in preparation for Easter. I have followed this practice. One year I gave up Netflix, another year I gave up fear. Lent has been an opportunity for me to begin behaving in ways which changed the rest of my life.

This year I am discerning and practicing hope for Lent. For me, this year, hope is more significant that chocolate or social media.

A Strong Crop of Hope

I am slowly, surely beginning to appreciate the value of hope.

Hope was not the most important quality where I was raised. It was more helpful, often, to be persistent or resilient than hopeful. Having a “positive attitude” was viewed as a sign of weakness. People who looked at life positively probably did not understand how difficult it could be. It was far more helpful to continue in the face of impossible odds than to hope everything would be OK. Hope was something that could make people weak. Hopeful people probably were not as prepared or as strong as they should be.

I was raised in a culture with an appreciation for a good worst case scenario.

The seeds of my hope were cultivated in a harsh environment. Hope which was not sufficiently strong to survive hostility was not strong enough.

Cold winters may have dashed some of my early hopes. The crop of hope that survived until spring was resilient.

Hope Has a Long Growing Season

Strong hope can take a long time to grow. It needs to send out roots underground long before anything visible sprouts.

Hope is a labor intensive crop. It needs to be fertilized and watered, weeded and tended. Hope does not grow overnight, and can be attacked by predators. It takes patience and persistence to produce hope.

It can be easy for us to take a vacation, to leave our hope to fend for itself for a while. The fact is our hope does not grow unless we are paying attention.

I will spend this season of Lent exploring, tending, discerning hope. We may even plant another field or two. It takes hard work to produce a good crop of hope.

Where do we discern hope?

Who has planted and cultivated our hope?

[Image by Narcissistic Tendencies]

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