when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.”
― Ellen Bass
Emily Dickinson described hope as “the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings a tune without words and never stops at all.” Both of the previous sayings reflect a true expression of hope- the small voice inside that beckons and woos us continually, even in the midst of our deepest wound, severest feelings of despair and confinement of abandonment, to fight to love again, to give ourselves to trust again and to press forward to live again. We are creatures made to hope. Hope is the essential ingredient that feeds our immortal existence. Like air is to our lungs is hope to our souls.
The integrity of hope that holds us is not as thin as the skin or being of wishes. Wishes can be likened to the mist of a beautiful cool morning. But, as the sun bears down in the heat of the day, the mist disappears and with it all thoughts of greatness and comfort vaporize. Wishes carry all the stableness and fragility of an overburden water balloon. It is not a matter of if it will burst but rather when it will burst. Wishes are the most temporary of tiny play things. Hope’s character is nothing like a wish, but rather more like a multitude of ideals threaded together to form something powerful and substantial. Its complexity and intricacies resemble the components of a genetic code of life rather than simple and independent random concepts. In the greatest sense, from the substance of our hope the structure of our faith is built, upon which, we live. Faith and hope are designed to go “hand in glove” so to speak. What successful life can truly be lived without the structure of faith as its vital component, even its foundation? A foundation embedded with hope as its material substance.
It is hope that beckons in the midst of brokenness, contriteness of soul or grief. When faith is shattered and emotions splayed, hope is there holding the jagged pieces in something like a state of “animated suspension.” Not one piece lost or hidden from sight. Over time hope draws your eye to examine those pieces of yourself very closely. Every detail, from every angle held perfectly still so you can inspect, dissect and choose. What do I keep and what do I throw away? When we look with the eyes of grief, anger, hatred or solitude it would be easy to throw away pieces that in their entirety are meant to be kept and pulled back together again. Tell me, how would a genetic code work or look if it were missing vital pieces or unnecessary pieces added? The answer, monsters inside would be created. But with the eyes of hope, the vital and necessary pieces of our faith, life, and emotions can be taken out of “suspension” and carefully put back into being one piece at a time. Thus retrieving and creating lush, vibrant lives.
I do not believe damage or devastation can quiet the sound of hope. Hope sings his tune all through the day and night. But, sometimes our ears are deafened to the deepest places of hope inside ourselves by the circumstances of our life. We all know loss, grief, dashed expectations, misplaced trust and broken relationships. And like lungs with no air, we will die without the sound of hope ringing in our hearts. Hope is not perfected nor does it grow when you have all the answers, or have everything “together”. Forced perfection suffocates hope. But, looking for answers in the midst of brokenness or grief releases the heart of hope to beat fast. To open your heart as you bow down and pour out gives voice to the sweet tune of hope. There is something so powerful about the stirring, lightness and essence of hope that echoes and resounds in the depths of our hearts. That is why when you hear the melodious wordless tune within yourself it is important to sing out loud from that deep well of hope. So, others when they hear it, may recognize the tune of hope within themselves. This is how we know hope dwells fully alive, thriving and healthy inside us, that we do not contain its song in ourselves but we give that mellifluous tune to others. For hope, in the finest of forms, was never meant to be kept closed in, like a bird in a cage, but rather given, shouted and shared as from the rooftops.