“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all” - Emily Dickinson
“mmmhmmm….hmmm..away from you, there’s nothin ..hmmmmm…could ever do, I bless the rains down in Africa,..mhmmm,la-da-da-da-da, ooh ohh.”
Yes, I know this song!!
Whenever I hear the 1982 hit song “Africa” by the band Toto, it intrigues me and I want to understand it. I think I’ve got the lyrics and I sing out in full confidence, but as it goes along, I find myself mumbling through once again. It will take another listen or two before I get it down pat.
Countless songs live in my head - rent free. I’ll never count them all. Shopping in the grocery store, Debbie Gibson’s “Lost in Your Eyes” is playing over the loudspeaker and I’m shocked to know every lyric, movement and nuance of the song (credit to hairbrush mirror singing in junior high and song on repeat). I’m a dork and a quintessential product of the '80s.
I live in music. The soundtrack of my life is a varied mashup of hymns, The Jackson 5, '80s pop, music theater, opera, contemporary worship, gospel, John Mayer and singer-songwriters. I can flawlessly pull some of this music off at a moment’s notice. I can recall emphasis and emotion, vocal riffs and instrumental breaks. It’s embedded in my DNA. Unlike my stumbling with the Toto song, I’m shocked to miss a lyric on all those songs I know so well.
Other songs, however, I haven’t absorbed enough to pull off. I might know the general melody, a lyric here and there, but that’s about it. It’s still fun to hum along and attempt at knowing them with the expectancy that I just might or that I someday will.
…the expectancy that I just might or that I someday will.
Hope is like that. Like the one who tunes into a melody. It’s like the bird, fully feathered, who has all the potential in the world to fly, yet remains perched in a tree humming along to what could be.
When I was pregnant with my third child, our family was in a desert season of life. We had just endured a profoundly painful circumstance and it left us spiritually, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. Waiting on direction, we were staying with family for a time, praying that the right job would present itself and the provision of a home and stability to nest into.
Perched. Waiting. Hoping.
This mom of three was, needless to say, vulnerable to emotions that come with pregnancy and motherhood and uncertainty of the future. I also battled shame and embarrassment in what I felt like was failure. Regret overwhelmed me some days, and I lamented privately to the Lord and openly with those close to me. I watched as my peers built houses and successful careers. Life was carefree and exciting for everyone else. It seemed like everyone moved forward as we were stuck and sinking. Chutes and Ladders became a metaphor for our life, not just the game I played on the floor with my boys.
I asked the self-tormenting questions, “Where did I go wrong?” “How is it that everyone else in life was smarter and wiser and more put together than me? Than us?” Yet, these weren’t the questions I was really asking. If I’m honest, I was really asking the age-old question, “Can I put my HOPE in God?”
And it wasn’t about trusting him for a house or a job or a “better” outcome. The deeper cry of my heart was hoping in Him - to see His hand upon my life. I wanted to know He’s “in it” with me. That He’s making beauty from my story. That at the end I can stand with my hands raised and say life with Jesus was the most beautiful experience I could have ever had. This was my hope. This is my hope.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Proverbs 13:12 (NIV)
It took a lot of will power for me to crack open my bible. I was wrestling with anger and deep hurt. Yet, I KNEW deep in my spirit that He was and is good. I knew His promises! Embedded in my DNA I repeated Jeremiah 29:11, Isaiah 40:31, Philippians 1:6. I repeated them again and again. I can recall emphasis and emotion, the ways these portions of scripture have encouraged me throughout time:
“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you.”
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
“...but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint”
Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)
”...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”
Philippians 1:6 (NIV)
So, I cleared the first page and began to read again - promises I knew generally, yet not deep enough. They were floating molecules that began to take structure and connect, becoming a still small voice. The soundtrack of my life. I refreshed and played it on repeat. And you know what? Hope began to rise.
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
Hebrews 6:19 (NIV)
“We know that God works all things together for the good of those who love him.” Romans 8:28 (NIV)
“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
Romans 5:5 (NIV)
Hope comes when we begin to understand the nature of our God - never changing, merciful, always faithful, abounding in joy, lavishly loving, full of peace, slays the future, and on and on and on. If He is for me, who and what can stand against me? If this is my God, Hope is alive!
Hope is that thing that shifts from the self-defeat, the agonizing questions, the regret and shame and just starts humming along to a melody. It sings along with the words it knows and is ok with the absence of the ones it doesn’t yet. Hope believes in potential. It lets go and looks forward and keeps going and pressing in.