I come from a long line of coat lovers. My mother and I both love to shop for coats. We cannot resist a good sale on a nice coat. I buy coats that no one needs, and my husband has come to accept it. But a story I heard from my grandma helped me to understand the real value of that heritage.
My Grandma Mary lived to be 95. All those years she was intelligent, feisty, and independent. She lived her last 36 years as a widow. I knew her as my grandma, but a story she told helped me appreciate her as a child as well.
My grandma had admired (and desired) a coat in the Sears catalog when she was about 10 years old. She tried to save and earn the steep $5 pricetag to buy it, but it was taking a very long time to accumulate that type of wealth in the 1920s. At the time there was a bounty on jackrabbits, which had apparently overpopulated in Kansas, destroying the cropland. This didn’t affect Mary very much until a huge hailstorm came through the area. It freakishly knocked out thousands of jackrabbits, and they lay dead in the fields and pastures. Still needing most of that $5, she set out with a butcher knife and a gunnysack. The county was paying a bounty of a nickel per pair of ears, so Mary needed about 100 sets of those ears. She got them. This was the same woman who raised my resilient dad. My Grandma Mary always knew how to find a way to make things happen. She knew something about hope.
Tenacious, effective hope requires finding a new way. The new way is never the easy way or the seamless way. Easy and seamless was Plan A. And if Plan A had worked out, you wouldn’t be desperately needing the saving kind of hope. We have all been in the grip of that desperation, searching for a way. But we are not alone. As Paul describes in Romans, the Holy Spirit casts hope into our long dark hallways to help us find another way. We just have to keep looking for it.
We need to find that new way when life is not unfolding the way we’d like. Mary knew it when she couldn’t earn enough for that coat by saving her meager allowance, and I know it every day when I run up against my limitations. Sometimes we need to keep wrestling, and not let go until we get that blessing. But not letting go, not giving up, is so very difficult. I have known that struggle. I have wrestled for hope. And sometimes hope has eluded me. But throughout my illness, I have always known it was crucial. From my journal almost a year ago:
Hope is a mysterious commodity to me, always has been. In I Corinthians 13, it talks about the “three” that remain: faith, hope, and love. I have always felt like hope was the much less important younger sibling of the three. Love is so innate, so much a part of us, that we can grasp that. God is Love. We struggle with how to express it and how to define it, but I believe that we are wired so we get it. Faith kicks in when you realize you’re not in control. That takes longer for some of us than for others. Faith is necessary for salvation. But hope? Hope? I mean we can hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow, we can hope for a better world. Those who are optimists have a larger dose of hope than pessimists, right? So, it’s sort of a side item, not worthy of being in the same list as the biggies, faith and love.
Not true, actually. Hope is a really big deal. It keeps us going when it makes no sense to keep going. Hope insulates our hearts and our minds so we can survive the blazing fires of this life. Hope is itself a gentle fire, giving us enough light to see tomorrow and enough warmth to rest tonight. Hope is a powerful thing and without it many people who have a grasp on faith and love will give up on life.
I desperately need a plan going forward. I feel that despite the improvement I’ve made, I am losing my hope. I can sense how important it is, and I feel it slipping away. God has been screaming, “Trust me!” for 20 months. I need to trust Him, to have my hope in Him, now more than I ever have.
Found in the Bible, the Hebrew word for hope, qawa, is deeply rooted in the word “trust,” and rightly so. My new way involves lots of trust and a plan of acceptance. Hope thirsts for trust, for endurance, and even some steadfast fingertip clinging, if necessary. I have amazing support, and have made a new way within the parameters set by this disease. I still bump up against the edges of those limitations, and it can be painful when I do. But I trust in our good God to continually restore my hope and the Holy Spirit to light those dark hallways.
There is more to the story of Mary and her coat, so keep reading on to the next post. It just might be the piece of the hope puzzle you’ve been missing. And if not, at least it will have you appreciating that next great online coat sale with free shipping.