It is difficult for me to get excited about 2018. When I look at my life, the lives of those around me, and those that I am in relationship with, I have substantial fear, frustration and uncertainty. What dominates my outlook is the presence of suffering and pain downstream of unacknowledged, unaddressed, and unprocessed neglect and hurt. Around the world, I lament the plight of Royhinga muslims in Bangladesh and Myanmar, children in Yemen and Syria and those suffering on Ukraine's border with Russia. Around our country walls of division are being built and fortified between genders, faiths, classes and political affiliations. Among my friends and family, addiction, poverty and the intentional and unintentional busyness of life don't make space for reconciliation and closeness. These things didn't disappear because the ball dropped in Times Square.
I wanted to feel hopeful though. I wanted to look into the eyes of my wife at midnight and say, Happy New Year with nothing but joy in my eyes. I couldn't do that though so I just went to sleep.
On January 1, I wanted to rise with anticipation of something different and new. On January 2, I longed for it. But it wasn't until January 5th that I put some words to it and on the 7th sitting in the sanctuary of New Life Fellowship did I have a clear picture of Jesus' invitation.
This song plus the first line of another famous hymn that says, "my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness" are poetic reflections of the present day that moved from theory and song to felt reality for me. When I asked at the prompting of our pastor, "God, what are you up to?" And "how can I help?" - you bet I got excited about 2018! God is doing amazing things all over in my family. In our home, Maia can say her name, Priscilla and I are growing in our love for and communication with one another and we are uncovering what type of family we want to be. Professionally, her school is MOVING fast as she interviews candidates and searches for a building. My book's first draft is done and RecWeek is around the corner. We both are immensely blessed with jobs that allow us to bear witness to Jesus in real and indentifiable ways. Hallelujah and amen!
Perhaps, this is what it looks like when I put my hope in a world that is destined to disappoint versus the kingdom of God whose Savior will always satisfy.
I am accepting that I will never read the news and not see another group under threat of being uprooted and subject to deportation. I am accepting that there will always be those who are rich that hoard wealth and opportunity for themselves and exclude those they don't deem worthy of the same treatment. I hold all of this and more in tension with the reality that every day there are people making space in neighborhoods for those without homes and room around tables for those without food. I look at the socially acceptable and even encouraged selfishness and remember the radical generosity of every day people choosing justice over more comfort. The Devil is real and he is busy, but so is Our Good, Good Father. Therefore I too will ask God, "What are you up to?" and "how can I help?"
And, I won't lose hope when I look at the world because my hope won't be in it. It will be planted firmly in the Kingdom of God. I invite you to do the same and live into the hymns we grew up singing; or sing them for the first time and live into their truth.