I am taking a poetry class right now, so excuse the use of poetic device to create a snappy title. Anyhow.
I am in the stage of my internship where reflection is my daily objective. To make my reflections more informed I have been given the pleasure of meeting with some of the Anglican priests, deacons, laypersons etc. in the area. This past Friday I was fortunate enough to meet with a well-experienced priest over coffee. During this session I began with the heavy-hitters, questions that I thought would lead to majour revelations. “Where are you now and what did you learn in your past that led you here?” some super original questions, I know. But then, the conversation got turned around on me. He began asking me questions about my internship and what I have already learned from it. It was here that the small vignette of hope appeared. After much discussion we uncovered that perhaps I kindled a hope in my placement’s community that I could bring in the youth and integrate them into the parish community. After all, I am young, I am driven, and I had no idea how difficult youth ministry can be (so my expectations were a little implausible). This hope, however, led to a belief that my plan was absolutely possible, in fact it seemed almost too easy! The reality, however, was that I could do no more to bring in all those youth than the wonderful youth director was already doing. What this led to was a discussion of the workings of hope.
The priest said a line, “Hope distorts reality and paves a way for ambiguity” that really stuck with me. Hope is something beautiful and transformative. It gives individuals a spark to start things, to stay strong in the midst of opposition, and to continually search for the light in darkness. But, hope can also serve as blinders to reality. Sometimes hope puts a rose-colored tint on situations that need to be faced with all sincerity. See, hope sometimes is a way of thinking of all the great things that “could be.” This in and of itself is beautiful, of course! How could we dream to be better without hope. But hope needs something to back it up, maybe a plan, or structure, a support team or campaign to use this hope and run with it. So I would say that hope needs to be informed through reality. Hope can only be transformative if it is possible. Not just that, but it can only become possible through action.
See, I can hope all I want that I will pass my final poetry exam… but if I don’t study for it you can just guess that that won’t happen. We, as Christians, can hope all we want to “change the world” or make a more tolerant community for all. But, these massive shifts won’t happen over night. Nor will they happen through the protection of our computer screens. A large hope can inform the ultimate goal of achievement, but that can only be achieved if people are willing and ready to take action and their actions will be received positively. We can’t force our hope onto anyone, it has to be accepted willingly. Sometimes this is the ultimate challenge, and this is where an understanding of reality comes into play. I couldn’t bring in ten young adults to the church on friday nights with a simple email to their parents. We hoped that I could, but I couldn’t. But what I could do was take the youth that did show up, that were willing to participate, and work with them.
We have the power to do great things, to share our faith and joy through word and action. These actions can be powerful. But hoping is not enough, we need to strategize, act and carry out an appropriate plan so that what we do is not in vain. This is much easier said than done. I hope and pray every day for more acceptance, tolerance, and peace in our communities locally and worldwide. But what am I doing about it? Signing petitions, maybe. Having heated debates with people who hold the “wrong” point of view to try to change their minds, perhaps. But what am I actually “doing,” what are you actually “doing,” that will see this hope through?