My colleague The Reverend Victoria Safford understands what it means to stand at the “Gates of Hope.”
The Gates of Hope — By Victoria Safford
Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of Hope
–not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower.
not the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense;
not the strident gates of Self-Righteousness,
which creak on shrill and angry hinges (people cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through);
not the cheerful, flimsy garden gates of “Everything is gonna be all right.”
But a different, sometimes lonely place,
the place of truth-telling, about your own soul first of all and its condition.
the place of resistance and defiance,
the piece of ground from which you see the world
Both as it is and as it could be, …as it will be;
the place from which you glimpse not only struggle, but joy in the struggle.
And we stand there, beckoning and calling,
telling people what we are seeing, asking people what they see.
As she says so well, hope goes deeper than optimism. It has a greater sense of possibility than common sense. It is much more humble and attractive than self-righteousness. It has more vision but less assuredness than “everything is going to be alright.” It begins with honesty about what is real in this moment and yet it is not settled or complacent with the status quo. In this way hope involves living in this world without denying or escaping the present circumstances but with a strong sense of call and anticipation of something better.
When I first began to face the reality of the addiction of someone I love, hope was hard to find. Once I allowed myself to sit with what was real in the situation I realized that it was not only my loved one, but I too had work to do in order to be healthy in the face of living with addiction in my inner circle. That reality called me to see what could be new in my life, regardless of what the other person might do or not do. Once I saw the truth of how the disease of someone else’s addiction was impacting me, I also saw how I had the power to heal myself. I was sitting at the gates of hope. When I opened the gates to let hope in, I found others who had traveled this road before me. Other people’s hope, and lived reality, began to fuel my own.
Exercises on Hope:
Find some time today to be alone and breathe and sit with what is real in this moment for you. Include both the things that are going well and the things that you hope will be different in the future.
As you sit and breathe see if you can connect with a sense of joy in the struggle you are facing.
When possible today, or this week, find someone with whom you can share what you are seeing and hear from them what they see.
Rev. Dr. Marlin Lavanhar is the Senior Minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He celebrates 20 years at All Souls during the church’s Centennial through March 2021. Follow Marlin’s cartooning on Instagram, @MarlinLavanharCartoons. You can read more of his blogs on beyondbelief.online; All Souls exclusive blog sharing stories of our free faith, curated from the heartland.