I asked Christine to help me with this post by giving me a title and a metaphor. She went above and beyond by giving me a title and TWO metaphors to work with as I continue blogging through Lent. You’ve seen the title. The metaphors she gave were clothespins and car engines (never a dull moment in the Nafziger house). Ready? Here goes nothin’.
The writer to the Hebrews talks about the hope that we have, saying that “Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).
Therein lies the true paradox of Christian faith. For we inhabit a rather uninspiring world, a rather broken world…a hopeless world.
Therefore, the decision to carry the hope that God inspires within ourselves is a decision to live not by sight, but rather by faith. For God did not create the world to merely be a hopeless waste. Neither did he create humanity to contribute to the darkness, but rather to the light.
During the summer (and spring and fall) in my area, it’s not uncommon to drive around and see Amish farms with enormously long clotheslines (seriously…like from the house to the barn roof long) filled with clothing hanging out to dry in the sun, catching the breeze gently blowing.
Thinking about those sights now, in the dead of yet another damp, dismal, gray February sky in Northeast Ohio, it almost seems impossible that such a symbol of simplicity, freedom, and hope can exist in the same place as such rain, and darkness, and muck.
But in any Amish basement right now, even in the dead of winter, there is a basket or a bag or some other container filled with clothespins…filled with very real, very tangible symbols of this hope. Spring is right around the corner.
There’s a saying about the weather. “If you don’t like it, just wait.”
We know that spring is coming, but not all changes are as predictable (or as welcome) on this journey of life.
We’ve become well acquainted with our local garage over the past few years, especially in the past month or two. I told the receptionist during my last visit that I’d like a frequent buyer card. She laughed it off. I wasn’t joking.
Like cars, we all have breakdowns. Our seals start to loosen and we develop leaks in our hosing (you can interpret that comment as literally or as figuratively as you want). Regular maintenance helps minimize and control the damage, but no maintenance routine is going to catch everything that could happen before it does happen.
So what does it mean, to have hope in the midst of a breakdown? What does hope look like when you’re stranded on the side of some forsaken highway with no idea what just happened, miles from anywhere you’d call familiar, in whatever weather you find most detestable?
I can tell you from more experience than I care to admit…it looks like a stranger.
Not that all strangers come bearing hope; don’t hear me wrong. Not that regular maintenance should go neglected because we ‘trust God with that’.
Rather, hope often looks like a stranger, because as Christian people we should often find ourselves in unfamiliar situations where we have to depend on the hospitality of strangers, and our ability to be gracious guests.
This is something that’s pretty uncomfortable for most of us, because we’d rather be the host. Hosting is great, but at least in my circles, we’re already pretty good at hosting our family and our friends and the people who are ‘like’ us.
In my circles, we don’t need more practice hosting…driving people around in our nice, tuned-up, clean SUV’s with ample leg room and touchscreen entertainment.
What we need practice doing is jumping in the backseat when a ride is offered after our breakdown. What we need practice doing (a practice that will build, strengthen, and pass on the hope that we do carry) is graciously accepting the ride from that slightly weird older couple who are busy garage sale-ing, or that younger couple covered in tatoos who spice up the ride with colorful language and cigarette smoke (both experiences I will always treasure).
Being sure of what we hope for is a very tangible thing, even (and especially) when the breakdown happens. If your hope is in the well-running machinery of life, then your hope is misplaced.
For our hope is in Jesus, the crucified, the resurrected, the servant of all and the one who questions, tests, and challenges all our highest dreams.