H is for Hope (an alphabet for penitents)

 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. -Romans 5:3-5

Hope is a prime motivator. The Apostle Paul describes hope as the end (telos) of suffering: suffering→endurance→character→hope→the fulfillment of our hope (because we have God’s love in our hearts through the Spirit’s presence). No argument from me Paul, but I am pain avoidant enough to not suffer anything if I don’t have to. I won’t do hard things, engage in a discipline or exercise if I don’t perceive some sort of pay-off. Spiritual disciplines, such as Lenten fasting and reflection, are no different. Lent is a preparatory season. We don’t need to prepare unless we are hoping for something—the resurrection after our long death march. Hope is bound up with our ‘whys.’

Here are some things I am hoping for this season:

  1. I hope to have a good Easter– I hope that a focus on Christ’s suffering and what it means to ‘take up my cross’ and follow Jesus, will give me a deeper appreciation of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. My small share in Christ’s suffering, through fasting, is so I can share in his consolation as well (2 Cor. 1:5)
  2. I want a ‘hope reset’ so that my hope rests on something more firm– Things don’t always go the way we expect.Careers implode, the wrong people win elections, the wrong team wins the Superbowl, our moral leaders lack compassion for the marginalized, politicians and media lie to us, friendships dissolve so much of life goes sideways. Biblical hope—our hope in God—places us on much more solid ground. God is the the rock of our salvation, our mighty fortress. Christ is the cornerstone and foundation on which our faith is built. Our hope is sure. I want to grow in my confidence in Christ.
  3. I hope to be transformed.- Lent is about spiritual renewal and I want to be made new. I want to have my life and imagination shaped by what it means to follow Jesus. I want to grow in grace and compassion for people. I don’t want to be self-centered. I want to know what it means to take up my cross and follow Jesus, come what may.
  4. I hope for the courage to be. – If you know my story, you know I feel called to pastoral ministry but my first pastorate ended badly. I was asked to resign and I am still smarting from that experience. Since then I haven’t done much to pursue my life’s calling. I am still hurt and afraid. I know better how to approach some things but because of my insecurity, I feel like I’ve hit a stuck point. I wish I could share my experiences from a place of victory, but I still feel really battered and broken by it. I hope for the courage to reengage my calling with a new sense of purpose and direction.
  5. I hope that my children will flourish. – Like every parent I hope that my kids will succeed at life. I want them to do well in school, I want them to do well at life, I want them to know Jesus. I get anxious about school systems, and being in a more economic impoverished area, I am concerned that I am limiting my kid’s opportunities.
  6. I hope that writing regularly bears fruit. –  I like writing. I sometimes think I am good at it. This blog has been mostly reviews of other people’s books, but I hope to one day write my own. I still make stupid grammatical errors and form bad sentences, but the writing brings me joy. I want to be an author, though, like this blog evidences, I have a difficult time narrowing my focus on a particular topic. I hope by making myself write (in this case a penitent’s alphabet), I will hone my craft, increase my impact, and sharpen my voice so that people will see I have something worth saying. Is this a shallow hope? I don’t know.
  7. I hope people read my blog. – This is a shallow hope, but I want you to like me. I know people check out my book reviews when it is interesting to me. I hope for something more. I hope for good conversation and dialogue.

How  about you? What are you hoping for?

romans5-3-4

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