Prisoner of Hope
I talked to a good friend this week who said it bluntly. "I have given up on hope."
I get it. Earthquakes, riots, terrorism, racism, poverty, and scapegoating on every side. I get it.
The only thing I knew to say to my friend was that we may give up on hope, but hope has not given up on us. In fact, because I am a Christian, I am a prisoner of hope.
Being a prisoner of hope means fundamentally that all of the problems of life are not the final word. Resurrection is the final word.
It means that every impulse that elevates the soul, every glimmer of hope, every hint of peace, every sliver of love, every bit of trust, every surprise of laughter, is a sign – a taste, a glimpse – of the hope that is to come.
But it means even more.
It means that hope is not just for the world to come, but hope can be found in this world.
Here. Now. With you and me.
The worlds collide when we look for it, and we find it in thin places.
Being a prisoner of hope means that when Jesus’ friends arrive at his tomb, and they are told that he is risen, nothing is out of the question. We live with impossible possibilities at each turn.
It means that while optimism is naive, and cynicism is a dead end, resurrection is possible in all things.
The end is not what the disciples thought it was. It was only the beginning.
And so when we find ourselves assuming that all is lost, gone, broken, finished and can never be put back together again, you can cry out, "I have given up hope!"
But just take a deep breath because hope will simply not let you go. You are a prisoner of hope.
"So by daylight on July 3rd, morning thoughts of a stiff sobriety were plainly in order. But in the midst of such circular thinking, an actual happening intervened with no trace of warning. I was suddenly not propped in my brass bed or even contained in my familiar house. By the dim new, thoroughly credible light that rose around me, it was barely dawn; and I was lying fully dressed in mod¬ern street clothes on a slope by a lake I knew at once. It was the big lake of Kinnereth, the Sea of Galilee, in the north of Israel—green Galilee, the scene of Jesus' first teaching and healing. I'd paid the lake a second visit the previous October, a twelve-mile-long body of fish-stocked water in beautiful hills of grass, trees and small family farms.
Still sleeping around me on the misty ground were a number of men in the tunics and cloaks of first-century Palestine. I soon understood with no sense of surprise that the men were Jesus' twelve disciples and that he was nearby asleep among them. So I lay on a while in the early chill, looking west across the lake to Tiberias, a small low town, and north to the fishing villages of Capernaum and Bethsaida. I saw them as they were in the first century—stone huts with thatch-and-mud roofs, occasional low towers, the rising smoke of break¬fast fires. The early light was a fine mix of tan and rose. It would be a fair day.
Then one of the sleeping men woke and stood.
I saw it was Jesus, bound toward me. He looked much like the lean Jesus of Flemish paintings—tall with dark hair, unblemished skin and a self-possession both natural and imposing.
Again I felt no shock or fear. All this was normal human event; it was utterly clear to my normal eyes and was happening as surely as any event of my previous life. I lay and watched him walk on nearer.
Jesus bent and silently beckoned me to follow.
I knew to shuck off my trousers and jacket, then my shirt and shorts. Bare, I followed him.
He was wearing a twisted white cloth round his loins; otherwise he was bare and the color of ivory.
We waded out into cool lake water twenty feet from shore till we stood waist-deep.
I was in my body but was also watching my body from slightly upward and behind. I could see the purple dye on my back, the long rectangle that boxed my thriving tumor.
Jesus silently took up handfuls of water and poured them over my head and back till water ran down my puckered scar. Then he spoke once—"Your sins are for-given"—and turned to shore again, done with me.
I came on behind him, thinking in standard greedy fashion, It's not my sins I'm worried about. So to Jesus' receding back, I had the gall to say "Am I also cured?"
He turned to face me, no sign of a smile, and finally said two words—"That too." Then he climbed from the water, not looking round, really done with me.
I followed him out and then, with no palpable seam in the texture of time or place, I was home again in my wide bed. ..
Yet through all the assaults I mounted on such an unprecedented and suspicious assurance, I was never quite able for two consecutive days to destroy the unassailably physical core of that morning—the credible acts that I'd watched, felt and heard in what was an actual place on Earth, a place I'd visited and photographed. That hard integrity clung to the memory; what it promised would somehow result in my body. So it did but by no means at once."