Southern Girl Storytime: Muddin' the Mississippi
We were created for the eternal.
Within our soul, there is the expectation of something more, further…beyond. Humans will always long for something beyond themselves, and for this reason, we will continually, habitually, and most times unknowingly engage in the dangerous business of hope.
Hope is a noun and a verb; it is something we have and something we do. Hope encompasses “all the feels” - excitement, fear, bravery, peace, assurance, confusion, ambiguity, optimism, wishful, and more – and sometimes, all these things simultaneously! Yet it is infinitely more important than feelings – because hope was instilled into our being by God Himself. It is spiritual and therefore, powerful.
Wielding such magnanimous power, hope innately becomes a dangerous business in which to engage. Even though it feels natural, it is imbued with the supernatural. So then, with something so vastly multi-faceted, layered, strong, and complex, how should we think about hope? How do we grasp it, much less “always” possess it (Psalm 71:14)?
What is hope – really?
Biblical hope is less of a noun, and more of what we might consider “tone”. It is less of a “thing,” yet, it’s not necessarily an adjective describing a noun or an adverb describing how one completes an action. Hope could be all of the above at any given point. But taken as its own spiritual concept, by itself, it is all of the above all the time. It is a thing and a how and a tone and an action…and any combination of these things. One generalization can definably be made: Biblical hope is more than a feeling or a wishful anticipation of fulfilled desires.
Biblical hope is less concerned with our ability to have hope, and more concerned with the quality of our connection to our source and the strength of the object to which we are connected.
Biblical hope is focused less upon an object we want or desire, and more upon the connection that spans the chasm between what we are experiencing in the here and now, and what will indefinitely satisfy the soul for eternity.
Storytime with a Southern Girl
No one ever plays tug-of-war with a piece of thread. Neither do Southerners go muddin’ without a winch. (Just file this tidbit of info under “Southern Lifehacks”.) Growing up near the Mississippi River bottoms, rainy days were just “good muddin’ weather”. If you’ve never been muddin’ then I’ll try to explain: Muddin’ could be defined as “purposefully taking your best, biggest trucks down to the sloppiest parts of the riverbanks in order to splish, splash, and splosh your truck through every mud puddle until you cannot remember what color your truck was to begin with”. To those who don’t know what I’m talking about, or why that even sounds like fun, may I gently remind you: “Don’t knock it ‘til you try it!”
But, as every good Southern Boy and Girl knows: “Take a winch or a wallet with ya in case you get ‘er stuck in the mud!” Because if you get stuck, you’ll need to use a winch to haul the truck out, or you’ll need to be prepared to pay a tow truck to do it for you.
Much like going muddin’, we need ropes that can bear the weight of whatever tension that will be experienced in this life, for however long such tension will be exerted upon the cord…which is also attached to something stronger than it all. The cord is the connector between the rescuers and those who need to be rescued. Likewise, hope is the connection between what we know and experience here in this world and the spiritual reality of what is to come.
If I was a math person... (which I am not...)
...perhaps the equation for “Hope” would look a little like this:
Weight + Time + Force = Tension
Durability > Tension
Both of these equations have to be true to equal true hope. In order to be assured of rescue, the durability of the connection between the rescuer and rescued must be equal to or greater than the tension experienced. No one has ever pulled out a truck stuck in the mud by using a piece of yarn. This applies to everything from daring rescue operations, to competitive tug-of-war matches, and even as far as the redemption of our souls (Col. 2:13).
Hope is our connection between here and Heaven, finite and infinite, earth and eternity, ruin and redemption. It is the connection over the chasm of this “great in-between”.
Biblical hope is both about our day-to-day burdens as well as our soul’s rescue. Hope is the cord that binds us to the Rescuer – throughout immeasurable time – for eternity. On one side, it binds to the weight of our fallen souls; and on the other side, to our Savior. It connects us to the Only Person who can save us, whose significance is so vast that it cannot be weighed by man. Acting upon this rope between us and our Rescue, are the forces of darkness, humanity’s fallen state, the wrestling through of our sanctification, and the sustained pull of the Rescuer.
We know that the tension upon this connection is real. It’s really real.
Truly, Biblical hope must be more than optimism and positive vibes. I wouldn’t want to be on the end of a tug-of-war rope that I had no reason to believe was strong enough to withstand the tension. Likewise, I don’t want to be at the end of any false or weak connection to my Rescue. Hope must be durable, strong, secure, and sure. Otherwise, the risk is too great.
Dangerous Conditions Possible
Trying to gain a working understanding of what hope really is just scratches the surface of how we experience hope in our lives. Considering how much is at stake surrounding hope and the supernatural durability and purpose required of hope, one can understand why hope may feel dangerous. It feels dangerous because it is dangerous…to both our soul and our flesh. It is so necessary for our soul’s survival while also becoming the very thing that requires that we “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles”. Simultaneously, we hold on while something stronger than us holds us, revealing that we are incapable of saving and securing ourselves on our own. And that feels risky. There are, after all, “foolish” men who build their houses on sinking sand, who are connected to false forms of rescue (Matt 7:42-27). Hope requires both: connection to the True Source of our rescue as well as durability of connectedness. This too creates its own type of internal angst – having to be connected to something outside of ourselves, which disarms our self-sufficiency, and requires that we remain entangled with mysterious things we cannot fully understand.
Yet, I do not believe for one second that God has left us alone to figure it out.
As we continue to study “Hope”, we will visit these risky, seemingly “dangerous” concepts face-to-face, and consider the tension between where we are and where we will one day be. I hope (expectantly waiting for my rescue because I am gathering together all of me in connection to my capable, strong, eternal Rescuer”) we will begin to understand what it really means to live as people of hope.