Hope can seem listless sometimes. Hope can feel like too much effort. Hope can feel pointless. Hope can seem overshadowed and beaten down by fear.
I remember having a conversation with a group of kids one Sunday morning in church. It was a large church with high ceilings and hard floors and bright lights and an ornate pipe organ, and there I sat with a bunch of kids and a large black duffle bag. I asked what they imagined to be in the bag and I let them squish it and push on it; and they decided it was empty. And it was.
So then I asked them if it was light or dark inside, and we agreed that it would be dark. And when I asked what would happen when I opened the bag, the children all agreed that the bright light from the large room (with the high ceilings and hard floors and pipe organ) would illuminate the inside of the duffle bag.
But then I asked them why. Why doesn’t the darkness from inside the bag spill out and infect the light?
Because if I’m honest, I’ve had trouble with hope. There have been more than a few times that I’ve felt like the darkness of fear has spilled out of me and infected my ability to to hope. I’ve felt listless and even pointless. I’ve felt overshadowed and beaten down by fear.
But maybe that’s ok. Or if not ok, maybe it’s natural. Maybe it’s a part of this whole process. Maybe the reality is that we can all feel overcome and overshadowed and overwhelmed and overlooked and overpowered.
And maybe that’s not all there is.
My dad used to tell me that hindsight is 20/20. In other words, we can often see situations with a bit more wisdom when we look back at them afterward. And I’m beginning to see that there have been signs of hope even when I’ve felt overcome and overwhelmed and overpowered.
I described previously that my radiation therapy required that I lay on a table with a mask formed from my face that would hold my head still during the brief radiation treatments. I shared a couple of photos of the mask, but never looked at it all that closely. Maybe because I’m not a huge fan of the mask. Maybe you can understand why.
But for some reason I felt compelled to bring it home. I still have it. It sits on a shelf and I mostly ignore it. And recently when I looked at it from an angle I never could have seen when I was wearing it, I noticed something.
If you look directly over the same eyebrow that was being blasted with radiation, you’ll see a cross. And if you look smack in the middle of the forehead, you’ll see a cross. That’s what I see, anyway. And it’s a reminder. It’s a reminder that there has been no part of this where I’ve been alone. There’s been no part of this that I haven’t been filled with grace and care and love and support and strength, and it has all been there even if I didn’t notice.
And sure, my Christian (and maybe even spiritual-but-not-religious) friends will say, “Wow! That’s Cool!” And my non-theist friends might say it’s coincidence. But however it is that I’ve realized that there’s been room for hope all along, isn’t it a truism that hope has a tendency to sneak up on us? Haven’t we all noticed things like that before? And haven’t we chosen to see them as signs of hope? I hope so.
And when I think about this, I can think of other things. Little things. The little tube of very expensive calendula cream no longer sits on the bathroom counter next to the sink. Some of the hair that fell out during treatment is just beginning to grow back. It’s little things.
As part of the group I’ve joined at the local community fitness center, we will occasionally try some alternative exercise routines that are as much about mind as they are about body. One thing I’ve enjoyed a couple of times through this group has been meditative yoga. During one session, the instructor read this meditation for us from a book called Metaphysical Meditations by Paramahansa Yogananda.
Spreading Divine Joy
Beginning with the early dawn each day, I will radiate joy to everyone I meet. I will be mental sunshine for all who cross my path. I will burn candles of smiles in the bosoms of the joyless. Before the unfading light of my cheer, darkness will take flight.
Let my love spread its laughter in all hearts, in every person belonging to every race. Let my love rest in the hearts of flowers, of animals, and of little specks of stardust.
I will try to be happy under all circumstances. I will make up my mind to be happy within myself right now, where I am today.
Let my soul smile through my heart and let my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter Thy rich smiles in sad hearts.
I will always behold in my life the perfect, healthy, all-wise, all-blissful image of God.
I feel hopeful that I can do this for today. And tomorrow? I’ll decide then, but – again – I’m hopeful.