There’s an exhaustion that threatens to border on despair. I think a lot of us are there now. I know I am.
I’m tired of this.
What else can you be when you see the same situations play themselves out over and over again? New shooters. New victims. New settings, from Colorado Springs to San Bernardino. And exactly the same results.
I’m tired of our communities becoming a roll call of blood.
I’m tied of the wait to learn a killer’s name, tired of the endless gabble and chatter and theorizing when it’s revealed.
I’m tired of the argument that’s become ritual, as we raise the points we know so well. Guns. Mental illness. Terrorism. Rights. Needs. Like a tae kwon do training pattern, we pose and shake the skies, only to end up right back where we started.
To have this happen in a sacred season seems a grim joke. And yet it’s the time we need the reminder more than ever.
Now, most of all, we have to have hope.
It sounds kind of insubstantial, doesn’t it? Of all the virtues that get celebrated coming into Christmas, hope may be the most misunderstood. It doesn’t get the full spotlight that basks over love. It’s not directly celebrated in carol after carol like peace or joy. When it comes up in the season at all, it’s a quick mention, almost glancing:
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoicing …
Respite in the midst of exhaustion. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?
Let me make one thing clear. This is not optimism. A simple conviction that “Hey, everything’s going to be OK” will burn out fast in the face of everything besieging it. Hope has more than good feelings behind it. Hope is putting your sweat where your dreams are.
Hope is the soldier of World War II who can’t see the end of the conflict, but throws himself into it, convinced that his one life can still make a difference.
Hope is the civil rights worker of the 1950s, for whom the vision of freedom seems impossibly far away, who nonetheless keeps marching and speaking and battling to make it happen a little sooner.
Hope is what keeps the teacher at a classroom. The policeman on a beat. It’s what fuels the best of marriages, the kind that didn’t stop all their energy on the altar but kept pouring it into every passing minute and hour and day.
Hope means work. To paraphrase a favorite writer, once you say that problems can be solved, that better is possible, you have to get off your duff and do something.
That’s what can transform a “weary world.”
Despair is easy. You just sit back, let the world happen, and say “told you so.” Hope can wear you out to the point where it almost breaks you. But it’s also the only thing that gives any of us a fighting chance.
This last year has been a quest for hope in our house. Ever since my wife Heather was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, we’ve had a lot to do. There have been medicines to try, work schedules to balance, a life to somehow keep going in the midst of everything. And it’s tempting to just sit down and shout at the heavens “I CAN’T DO IT!”
Sometimes we do. Everyone needs to retreat sometimes. But eventually we keep going. We have to. Or it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Hope asks a lot. But it’s the only way to move forward. It’s the only way to move at all.
Are we ready to try it?
It means more than hand-wringing and pained pronouncements. It requires more than a hashtag and a Facebook post. If we’re going to break the cycle of death, we have to be ready to fix our eyes on a goal and shoulder our piece of the work. It may not be monumental. It may seem hopelessly insignificant. But drops become a flood. And a flood can change landscapes.
Will we? Are we ready at last to take up the burden of hope?
I’m tired of what we’ve got.
Let’s wake our world.