Emily Dickinson imagined “Hope” as “the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without words, and never stops at all.”
Hope is one of our most commonly used phrases. We say, I hope it won’t rain, I hope I can make that train, I hope I’ll pass the test; our expressions of things we “hope” for is endless. But what does hope really mean? John F. Kennedy’s quote springs to mind, he said, “We should not let our fears hold us back from pursuing our hopes.”
We really do not understand hope until we find ourselves without it. When we are hopeless even for a short time our world becomes dark. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow must have understood this. He said, “The setting of a great hope is like the setting of the sun. The brightness of our life is gone.”
I love taking pictures of sunsets and sunrises. It intrigues me that sunrises and sunsets appear very similar. Looking at pictures I took a long time ago, I am the only one who is certain whether the picture is of a sunset or sunrise. Friends may guess but only I know whether it was beginning or the end of the day. Sometimes, hope is like like that, we can’t be sure in what guise it will return. When the glow of sunset turns to darkness, we hope for the sunrise.
No biblical story illustrates better a state of utter desolation and hopelessness than that of Sarah’s maid[GC1] Hagar in Genesis 21 (KJ21). She was sent into the desert with her son Ishmael for mocking her childless mistress illustrates utter hopelessness. Hagar had every reason to fear her son would die of thirst. We, who live in the desert understand better than most the consequences of being without water and shelter in the desert. Her wailing was interrupted by the angel’s greeting, “Fear not, for God hath heard the voice of the child where he is”. Once fear dissipates, “hope is at hand” .
“Fear not,” is often announced by angelic beings to human beings in desperate times.Their message always offers hope. When fear is taken away, hope is born; For Hagar, hope of life came when her eyes were opened to see the spring nearby. Hope is there for us when we perceive things in a new way. The darkness of hopelessness gives way to light when we see our situation in a new light. The message of hope may come to us in many guises. Hopelessness may be lifted by prayer, meditation, witnessing a beautiful sunset or sunrise, a flower, may bring hope and comforting in our time of distress.
Meister Eckhart‘s poem gets to the heart of the matter. We become hopeless and fear the most when something we love appears lost to us.
The Hope of Loving
What keeps us alive, what allows us to endure?
I think it is the hope of loving,
or being loved.
I heard a fable once about the sun going on a journey
to find its source, and how the moon wept
without her lover’s
We weep when light does not reach our hearts. We wither
like fields if someone close
does not rain their
Patiently we must wait for the darkness to give way to the glow of day, reach out for the hand offered in kindness. open our eyes to new possibilities.
Inspiration and Prayer for 7/28/13, offered by Rev. Judith Vadergrift posted each week on the On-line Swedenborgian Community
Your inspiration this week is to find a place where you can be alone in silence and listen for the voice of God. Take your journal with you, and any books for inspiration you like. Write, pray, listen, Love Enjoy! ” Dear Lord teach me to take your Love deeply inside my being. Teach me to keep my focus on you. Let me be the observer only, of this world. Thank you for my soul’s rest and renewal each day. Gratitude fills my heart for all I have been given both good and bad. The good uplifts me and the bad strengthens me. My heart fills with love for all beings. Let me walk in deep peace with you knowing your love fills me completely. AMEN.” With Love, Rev. Judith