Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Tension Between Hope and Faith

The wind had picked up some time during the night.  All I knew is I was awake, now, to the thundering torrent of monsoon rains on the tin roof, just feet above my head.  It would come in rolling waves of sound, each gust throwing the drops with  unchecked fury against our little house.  The mat wall at the head of my bunk gave a thin illusion of shelter from the elements outside.  The wind was angry that night.  

It had hurtled over untold leagues of ocean, to our lagoon, where it beat the friendly water into an unfamiliar beast.  It strong armed the supple palms, who tossed their heads in defeat, letting loose their coconuts with emphatic thuds onto the saturated sand.  The village huts, low and hugging the ground, hunched their shaggy shoulders as the monsoon wind bullied up and over and through them.  

I lay scared and still in my bed up close to the sloping roof.  Our house wasn't a village hut.  It did have mat walls, but it was built on stilts, two yards up from the ground.  The metal posts were sunk several feet into the island's sandy ground, and were attached to our floor joists with flimsy L-brackets.  With every gust of wind that pushed against the house, it swayed like a drunk man on its feet.  And with every sway, my mind's eye saw it rising up off its stilts and twirling into the gale, Wizard of Oz style, out to the waiting sea.  

I had no hope in my heart, in that moment, that things would turn out well.  Everything was dark.  Everything was loud and wet and scary, and the wind was certainly too big for me and even for the house.  So clearly could I see the inevitable unmooring of the house from its stilts, that I planned what to do when it happened.  I would flatten myself out on my bed.  I would kick a hole in the mat wall.  I would jump from the house just before it landed into the ocean.  The disaster would happen, of this I was certain.  I just didn't know which roaring gust of wind would be the one.
I did not have hope that all would be well.  But, perversely, my heart trusted.  I was certain the house would fall, but I was also certain that God was there.  I could feel Him, in the dark, in the fear, sitting with me.  My heart could hear His love in the midst of the chaos.  I knew that He was there, and that He knew what would happen, and that He loved me.  

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This is the paradox I've been mulling over lately.  It seems to me that often in my life, I have either no hope but lots of faith, or I have lots of hope and little faith.  

For example.   

When I was 10 weeks pregnant and started bleeding heavily ... I had little hope that the baby would live.  But I had lots of trust that God was there and He cared for me.  Conversely, when we were in the process of negotiating for our current home, I had a stubborn hopefulness that refused to go away, that it would be ours, but I had very little faith that God even cared where we lived.

If you graphed hope and faith along an axis, they would look like sine waves of inverted positive and negative polarity.  

Hope waxes and wanes along the axis of life, and so does faith.  Sometimes hope is rising while faith decreases.  Sometimes hope decreases while faith gets stronger.  Sometimes, they exactly coincide and these are the moments when everything is the safest.  It feels the safest and most comfortable when your hope for the future is bright, while at the same time your faith that God is for you and loves you and that you are hearing Him clearly, is strong.  

What's hard is when either your hope or your faith wane.  Because then, there is no surety.  Then, you're not holding onto the monkey bars with both hands, but with one.  And you cling desperately with the one hand - cling either to the hope that refuses to disappoint, or to the faith that's sure of the Unseen.  

But who knows.  Maybe, as you grow and mature in your journey, the hope and faith waves begin to flatten out until finally they are coinciding most of the time.  Maybe.  But maybe that's just me being hopeful.

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