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A Place for My Hope

Its funny and a little typical that just after writing what I did on Saturday morning, I had this wonderful night of Christmas parties reconnecting with dearly loved old friends proving once again that God’s world is not as black and white nor is it as either/or as I often want it to be.  He doesn’t need for groups or types or individuals to be as clearly defined or distinguished as would make it easier on me.  In His economy, there aren’t “two different worlds”, just one over which He is King.  Martha Jane’s hair is just hair, a different color and texture than mine, but still just hair that grows out the top just like mine.  Its nothing to freak out over or in need of a “plan” as so many people wonder if I have.  I don’t.  People, at their core, are all the same fundamentally even if wonderfully varied in expression and participation in the community of God’s Kingdom.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.  Psalm 42:5

I’ve felt a sadness since returning from Uganda, a sadness that has probably been around longer than Uganda but is closer to the surface, at least, now.  According to the order of this psalm, it would seem there is a connection between my downcast heart and its affections, its hopes.  My hope has been misplaced because it has not been directed toward my Savior and my God.

What does this even mean?  Just like my lack of plan for Martha Jane’s hair, I have no plan for setting my hope accurately and effectively in God.   Both to my frustration and honest relief, God has not given a detailed formula for this total change and transfer of affection, but I did discover some interesting synonyms for “hope”: acheivement, ambition, anticipation, aspiration, assumption, belief, concern, confidence, daydream, dependence, desire, endurance, expectation, fortune, gain, promise, reliance, reward, security, wish.  “A dream is a wish your heart makes when you’re fast asleep” is a verse from the song that Cinderella sings, I think.  What I daydream about tells me a great deal about what I am really wishing for or desiring which tells me where I think the reward or treasure might be buried.  It is this reward or treasure hunt that becomes my ambition, for which I anticipate even if the exact picture of what I anticipate is a bit fuzzy.  The bottom line is that my hope is a reliance on something that is promising fortune and the problem is that my daydreams are rarely God.

I think I am looking for my treasure in some sort of defined sense of place and not just place in itself but settled sense of my own place in that place.  Really, my place in group, but group maybe being a set of concentric circles rather than just one isolated group.  At least three of those concentric circles would be: God’s Kingdom, my participation with one set of socioeconomically defined friends and my relationship to another socioeconomically defined group.  Clearly God’s Kingdom would be around the other to circles.  My heart is dreaming of a title or position or very clarified role which would explain how they all evidently work together and how my past is not separate my present and how they both come triumphantly together in my future.  Why does this even matter?  How has this become such an insidious obsession, central to my heart’s joy and descriptive of its downcast state?  I suppose, simply stated, that is the nature of all God replacements.

Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.  For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reasons for such confidence.  If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee;  as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.  But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. Phil. 3:2-9I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Phil. 4:11-13

The deception sneaks in ever so cleverly, like the witch dressed merely as an apple peddler to trick Sleeping Beauty, or the snake in the Garden promising truly good things by toxic means.  Yet, it is the very same reality every single time: “everything will be right when…” and “my righteousness will come by…” and neither sentence ends with or is satisfied by the person and work of Jesus alone.  Of course I am rarely consciously thinking this way, but my downcast heart exposes itself nonetheless.  I am wiggly and squirmy and sad and uncertain about my role, my purpose, my value and worth and am thinking that those questions will be answered with a title found in concentric circles.

“Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the LORD.  “Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you.”  Zech. 2:10-11

He is the center of all the circles.  The person and work of Jesus is the only titled One who bridges what looks to us as different worlds or distinct circles but to Him is all His Father’s world.  He makes those who are not His people, His people…and that is all there is.  He walks freely among His people, without consideration for background, education, skin color, accent, vocabulary, culture or tradition.  His devotion is to His Father, the fullness of His identity rests in the fullness of His Father not in the eyes or understanding of those He came to serve.  Because He is fully defined by His Father, His love for others can be generous and unrestrained.  As I identify more with Him than any group or community or cause opinion polling, I will find my hope resting in the righteousness of God, by faith, and that will be Good News.  He came to satisfy my hope as nothing else ever possibly can, and that is very Good News.

In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.  May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in you.  Psalm 33:21-22

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