Romans 8:18-25

George Macdonald was a nineteenth Scottish poet and writer of Christian allegories, and he was a mentor to C. S. Lewis.i Macdonald tells of the experience of discovering that something is new in your soul, as if you are in a new place or new space. You may realize that something which had been terribly troubling, no longer is; something that seemed impossible or unbearable is now do-able; some great weight we’ve been carrying, and it’s been lifted from us; some vacuous emptiness in us, and we realize that it’s been filled; some grief that we’ve been mourning, and our tears have turned into a well of gratitude.  Macdonald suggests, though, that coming into new space is not like seeing a door in front of us, and we walk up to it, find the courage and freedom to open it, and we move into this new space.  It’s not like that, not so often.  It’s more often the experience of simply waking up to the realization that something is new, something is different and we turn around and see that the door or the threshold over which we crossed is behind us which, as we look backward, we can now see has made all the difference.  We probably didn’t recognize at the time.

So much of life is uncharted, and sometimes it is so very difficult for us to find our way, to find “the way and the truth and the life” that Jesus promises us.  How can we know the way when we’ve never traveled this way before?  There is a wonderful spiritual gift that enlightens the eyes of our heart when we cannot see the way ahead: the gift of hope.  St. Paul says “…in hope we are saved.  Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what is seen?”  Hope is an expectation that we will find the provision we need to find our way, especially when we can’t see the path ahead.  Where we tap into hope is from our memory.  It’s this experience of looking backward at what we can now see were thresholds and doorways through which we have passed in our own lifetime, perhaps miraculously.  Hope is tapped by looking backward to see God’s amazing provision in our life, and then remembering that provision into the future.  Use your memory to see into the future, which is hope.  “Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what is seen?”

The new space in which we find ourself right now – new space that we may or may not welcome – will prove to be amazing, as amazing as our past.  We will likely only reaize this as we look back on it.  In the meantime, as we look to find our way – the way, truth, and life that Jesus promises us – we can draw on this gift of hope, the memory of God’s provision in the past, which shall prevail into the future.  Hope is not a skill.  Hope is a spiritual gift.  Hope is tapped by looking backward to see God’s amazing provision in our lives, and then remembering that provision into the future.

i George Macdonald (1824-1905) was a novelist of Scottish life, poet, and writer of Christian allegories of one’s pilgrimage back to God, who is remembered chiefly, however, for his allegorical fairy stories, which have continued to delight children and their elders. He became a Congregational minister, then a free-lance preacher and lecturer.

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