Subtitle: Or, at the least, I think I believe
Sub-subtitle: Or, at the most, I believe I know
On dying and hope…
The hand of the Lord came upon me…and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones…Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live’”…I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude (Ezekiel 37.1a,c, 4-5, 10)
Jesus came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone”…He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go” (John 11.38-39a, 43b-44)
There is at least one thing necessary (or so I have learned) to behold a possibility of new life within those moments and experiences that assault and insult us.
Hope is not wishful thinking or, worse, delusional naïveté that sees things that are not there. Hope is a radically counter-intuitive expectation, which, refusing to absolutize the present, will not believe that all that can be seen is all that is. Hope can seek, through the here and now of the present, the horizon of possibility.
I confess that in my life and for a long time, hope was a hard thing for me to conceive, much less believe. Given my upbringing (a longer story, which I won’t detail here), I tended to look at the world as the proverbial “glass half-empty.” Thus, I learned not to hope too much and to expect disappointment. And, when I did see hope, generally, it was not by projection as I looked into an experience, but rather by reflection as I looked back at an experience.
However, blessedly, now, as I near my 70th year, countless are my reflective moments when I have beheld the presence of hope. And as long as I possess the enabling power of memory, I, having learned how to hope, can stand in the present, even in the worst of circumstances, and envision gracious outcomes.
By hope, Ezekiel stood amid a valley of dry bones and prophesied new life.
By hope, Jesus stood before a tomb of death and called forth new life.
Daily we die by installments. How we choose to respond is a matter of life-and-death.
Dare we, do we hope?
© 2021 PRA
The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones, Gustave Doré (1832-1883)
Jesus Raising Lazarus from the Tomb (1897), James Tissot (1836-1902)