I woke up before sunrise this morning, restless and anxious about something I couldn’t quite name. So instead of staying tangled up in my blankets, I shuffled through my dark house to the kitchen to brew up some coffee. No use tossing and turning in bed listening to the whir of the ceiling fan.
As I sipped at my mug of dark roast, I perused my bookshelves looking for something to distract myself from anxious thoughts. (Anxiety is an unwelcome companion of mine and I often quiet it’s wailing with books.) My fingers traced the spines of these beloved books until I landed, surprisingly, on an old bible.
As any other gal raised up in a Southern Christian family, I own about a dozen or more bibles of varying translations, in varying degrees of wear and tear. Some of them were gifts and some were purchased because at the time I felt like I needed a fresh start with fresh pages that hadn’t been cried over or marked up. There have been years that I have clung to the words across those pages and varying translations like they were the only thing strong enough to keep me going. A lifeline in one storm or another. And then, there were many more years that those words burned like acid. When anger and disappointment and grief bled over them until they became unrecognizable and painful. Salt on an open wound. These years, sadly outnumbering the clinging years, they stayed shut up on shelves collecting dust, because I couldn’t bear to open them. I couldn’t even bear to have them mentioned.
Faith is a tricky thing. So many of us have been burned deeply, beyond repair, by it’s promises. So many of us have been torn apart and left to bleed by it’s followers. Humans, reckless with their words and actions. There is a certain amount of disillusionment that comes as we grow older and we’ve all been guilty of the tearing apart, we’ve all been reckless with other’s at some point in our lives. And some of us have used faith as our excuse. Again, faith is tricky. It’s irrational at times. But, it’s also full of hope.
My faith has weathered a lot in my short life and it has become a core of who I am and who I’m becoming. It drives so much of how I approach my life and how I desire to be love and compassion to the world. But, I’m not writing any of this to debate faith or tell you to go read the bible or beat you over the head with religion. Because I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of those debates and beatings. And I know how ineffective they really are. I’m not here to preach either. But I am writing this morning to remind, to highlight a specific little element of faith…that word hope. For as much as life has made me a cynic, it has also grown me into a fierce warrior for hope. As much as I have overcome, I’m still a human capable of breaking and I need to be reminded that hope still exists in this world of ours.
It’s such a tiny little word, but it’s impact is immense for those who get a taste for it. It’s a relentless little word. It can make or break you.
It’s easy to be negative, to lash out from our own pain, to tear down to appease our own brokenness. Depression, Anxiety, Heartbreak, Grief…. Darkness does not discriminate. None of us are immune in this world. None of us. In spite of all of it though, Love perseveres. People heal. Life goes on. We are resilient. And the thing that pushes us forward is Hope.
Sometimes, hope is loud. A speech that inspires, a concert where you walk out with your ears ringing and your adrenaline pumping and your heart so full of energy you could burst, a great revelation on a mountaintop after a year or years in the valley.
But more often it is quiet. A phone call, a whispered prayer over you that you know nothing about, an unexpected kindness like a check in the mail, a meal offered or the car ahead of you in the drive thru paying for your latte, a hug from a friend, tears shared, a card or letter, or some goodness from the past resurfacing to remind us who we have become.
So, back to the bible.
The particular bible I pulled down this morning is rather tragic looking. It’s the bible that journeyed through college and the early twenties with me. It’s survived countless college trips, devos and small group studies, a flooded apartment on a couple of occasions and has been marked through in a kaleidoscope of highlighters and pens. It’s kind of like the Velveteen Rabbit. Well loved and sewn back together. It was my favorite bible that came before my greatest season of darkness, before I closed them all up and put them away to collect dust. So, what does this have to do with hope, you ask?
Well, as I gently flipped through it’s pages, I found a sticky note folded in half and stuck on a random page of the Old Testament. Now, my bibles are all filled with notes written between friends and I when the preaching was too boring, along with scraps of things I wanted to remember. I’m a note hoarder. It’s the same with a lot of my other books as well. But, as I unfolded this particular note to see what might have been so important about that page on some long forgotten day, I smiled. It wasn’t my handwriting on the note at all.
You see, hope often disguises itself as people. Sure, people hurt us, burn us, but they are also the most beautiful vessels for hope.
One of my absolute favorite vessels is one of my best friends from college, Emily. She is a notorious sticky note leaver. When you’re not looking she’ll hide them in drawers, in books, on your clothes in closets, on your steering wheel or dashboard, on your mirror or nightstand. Little shards of encouragement. Little nuggets of love. Little slivers of hope. She has been a constant vessel of hope for me since the day we met sophomore year of college. Her message is relentless …You matter. You are beautiful. You are loved. She hasn’t let me forget.
She is hope on a post it note.
Life is hard. I know I’m not saying anything you don’t already know in that regard. But here’s the thing, the point of all my long-winded rambling this morning, the reason I think I pulled that bible down, even without knowing it….
We need more post it notes.
We need to be post it notes…. or hugs or lattes or whispered prayers or tears shared.
They really are everything.
Hope is everything.