As warmer temperatures return, the green blades of crocuses peek through thawed earth. Those first green shoots give me the springtime hope I need to keep on steady through the rainy days or late-season snowfall.
At the same time, after a full year plugging away at social distancing, mask mandates and quarantine since COVID-19 rearranged our lives, I’m watching people getting their vaccines and perking up with the hope that a more expansive lifestyle may soon be available.
A friend who recently completed her two-shot vaccination was nearly dancing as she described her plans to get her hair done. Soon after her new hairdo, she was also planning to finally visit her family — and give them hugs. “Who knew such little things could make me feel euphoric!” she exclaimed.
I was both moved and troubled by my friend’s excitement.She and I both trust that the best science presently available has gone into the vaccines’ production and distribution. Yet we also know how much remains to be learned in the long term. I wanted to caution her to hold her hopes in one hand and keep her mask handy in the other, but I didn’t want to burst her bubble.
But is that all hope is — a bubble? A temporary helium balloon feeling, easily punctured by the threat of future adversity?
My faith tradition suggests that hope is not a temporary high but the substance of endurance. Hope is not a feeling we generate for ourselves, but an inner response we experience when we are grasped by a vision of future possibilities. In Christian faith, our hope in the future is grounded in the past, in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We believe God’s ultimate future, the reconciliation and renewal of all Creation, has already broken into the present.
Hope is a grace that grasps us and inspires us to act upon our vision of new life in the here and now. Hope gives us the courage to dwell in the tension between the now and the not yet, the wisdom to make changes in alignment with the vision, and the perseverance to see the vision through.
I once heard it said that hope helps us to hop. Hopping takes muscles, and we develop muscles with practice. Start by getting clear about what your hope is. Any little hope will do — getting your haircut, hugging your grandkids — good enough! Practicing small hopes is how we gain the strength to leap into even greater hopes.
Next, let your hope fill you up. Let it make you dance, like my friend did. This step can feel scary, if you fear disappointment. Notice your fear, and choose to hop into hope anyway.
Finally, take action toward your hope. Small actions count. Enough small actions make big ones, and before you know it, that new dawn, that new life, has become the new reality. So, keep on hopping into hope, as long as it takes!