I used to think of hope as wishes, as little bubbles that floated away from you and popped on the way up to some genie in the sky.
Hope seemed ephemeral, insubstantial, the sort of thing you rely on when you’re at your wit’s end.
And I made it a point to never be at my wit’s end. I climbed ladders of A’s, I did the work, I made the team. When I didn’t fit in, I’d find where I did. I’d find the smaller pond to be the biggest fish, where I could be the star.
Hope was the antithesis of the American Dream. It was for the weak, the downtrodden, the poor and the orphan. Although we’d never exactly say so, I came from a lineage where those were the people we helped; we weren’t those people.
I built my white picket fence cozily around me. I laid myself on top of a foundation of success, hard work and my own giftedness. I tucked all the gifts under me like a mother hen sheltering her brood of chicks.
But, if we plaster over our need, we have no need for hope. And if we lose hope, what do we have? We become shadows. Shadows of real human beings, with a stern self-righteousness that spills over into everything and poisons the well.
We’re just whitewashed tombs barricaded behind fences of good deeds and accolades.
But Hope wheedles in whatever way He can. He pushes through fence posts and explodes us from the inside so that we’re left with the debris of our goodness.
Because love, like hope, always starts with need.
Your neediness may come from trauma, or a loss that knocks the wind out of you, or abuse—things that twist and contort hope so that it grows so dim it’s hard to see it, let alone grasp it.
For me, it was motherhood. I was finally birthed into my own need from those born from me, from those babies who felt like little bubbles in the womb.
I was deliriously sleepless with a baby who wouldn’t stop crying. This was not supposed to happen. I was the woman with the advanced degrees, the one who had studied how birth and parenting were supposed to look like. I had always succeeded at the things I had put my mind to. I wanted raw almonds, and soft lighting, and massage in my birthing. Instead I had an emergency C-section. I wanted attachment parenting and blissful naps together. Instead I fell asleep, drooling, nursing a baby while grading papers, with never enough time or energy to devote to either one.
Seeing my need took awhile. Instead of falling face down, I decided to do better. To be organized. To finally get my life wrapped up into a package of control. I would be supermom in the midst of colic, a Ph.D. dissertation, and a new job.
All the hiding and covering up, all the “I’ll-do-better-next-time’s” was just my version of thinking I was too good for hope.
But hope stole in unawares. It came through play dates and walks around the park. It came in long stretches of noticing how leaves crunched and changed colors. It came in the quiet paths of our mother-and-children days.
Hope materialized in the form of a dear friend who, as we cupped our hands around weekly cups of coffee, said “me, too.” We had a place to admit that we screamed at our children in private. We held open sacred space for one another. We prayed about fear and shame and how maybe this whole Christian life feels sometimes like a sham. We commiserated about the sleepless nights, the lack of felt purpose to our days, and how we sometimes just wanted to escape. To hop on a plane or just be alone for 24 hours. Anything.
It wasn’t until I realized that the solution wasn’t better children, or less children, or more “me” time. The solution wasn’t healthy eating, exercise and quiet time—though all of those things helped stem the chaos. The solution wasn’t “out there,” as if a quick trip to Fiji would turn me into the ideal I just couldn’t reach.
I needed grounding outside myself. I needed a hope that was built on something unchanging, steady and sure. Hope anchored my soul. And there was firm ground at the end of my rope. Hope would hold me fast and steady when there were bills, and noise and children. When life looked entirely different than how I thought it should be.
Hope was solid. It wasn’t idly floating bubbles, popping as they went just a bit too high. Hope was holding on to a rope I knew was anchored deep, even when I couldn’t try any harder.
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