I think if it were possible to become some sort of entity external to myself and watch the way I have been living over the past year, I would see some strange mix of hope, confidence, and chaos. Which are really three very difficult threads to braid together.
As the year comes to a close, and another year begins to introduce itself, I am discovering that this metaphor of a braid is really the best way to view it. I will be 40 in 2022 and I have learned I cannot effectively get rid of any of these three threads. I can only endeavor to hold them together effectively.
I don’t need to spend many words telling you about chaos. We see it all around us. We feel it within us. Chaos is as constant as the seasons. There may be times of reprieve, but it is never far away.
Much of my life has been spent trying to eliminate or at least mitigate chaos in my life.
For sure, there are two kinds of chaos. The kind I create and the kind I inherit. The latter is more avoidable than the former. Sometimes I become addicted to chaos of my own creation, thinking that if I can create it I can control it. Although, it never seems to work out that way. Creating chaos is foolishness. Paradoxically, avoiding inherited chaos is equally foolish. So, we ought to avoid one and address the other, but we so often get it backwards in terms of which is which.
Chaos, no matter how it comes, is not as apocalyptic as it feels. That is, primarily, because it is not alone. It is not the only thread being woven.
In many ways, confidence feels like the opposite of chaos. But they are meant to be complimentary, not combative.
Confidence is a recognition of what I can (and cannot!) do. It is the ability to see that I do have resources to steward, opportunities to manage, and choices to own. Within the context of the other two threads, I do have a part to play. And I am equipped to play it.
I am much more confident now than I was in my twenties. For me, confidence is about experience. It is about the slow understanding that the choices, opportunities, and resources I have are not available to anyone else in the world. If I don’t steward them, nobody else will. And, further, if God gave them uniquely to me to steward, he also gave me the unique ability to steward them.
This could easily lead to narcissism. People, including me at times, shrink the world down to only this. What they know and what they can do is all that matters, is all that there is. Chaos keeps my confidence in check. It keeps me humble. It is a check, a mediator, but it is not an eclipse. It puts my confidence in proper context.
I view hope as both the space between confidence and chaos and something beyond either. In short, hope is everything I don’t see or understand. And the older I get, the more I realize, is a lot. Like a whole lot. Most.
Hope is this insane trust in something external to myself. But humans cannot help but hope. We are all too aware, deep down, of our limitations. We might hope in all sorts of things – substances, circumstances, a new beginning, an end. It is one of the things for us to steward. One we cannot escape.
The Bible says “hope deferred makes the heart sick”. When we temporarily lose sight of hope, or hope in the wrong thing, it is like we are without a home. It is ironic since hope is centered on something beyond ourselves, but when we cannot name where our hope lies we are not quite ourselves.
And so, the braid goes on and on, year after year. One day hope takes the lead, one day confidence, the next chaos. Yet none of the three are very far from one another. And, at my best, they are all dancing in my consciousness at once.