When hope is deferred, our heart grows sick, but when we see and know the hope fulfilled in the now, we can build resilience to the struggles of the day.
People traveled long distances hoping to get some of the money ‘falling from the sky.’
A few nights ago, I watched a news item about a publicity marketing stunt that made a seemingly genuine promise and failed to deliver.
A company had promised.
‘New Zealand’s first mass cash drop.’
‘We’re dropping $105,891.40 [$74,558.13 USD] in value from the sky’
‘YES. Actual money will be flying …’
Instead, it was fake money and vouchers for discounts at their online store.
There was anger, violence, and a huge disappointment. Hearts full of hope were sickened.
Our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, said
‘I cannot fathom how, at any point, someone would think that was a good idea. Clearly, it was not. It has caused harm, it has caused hurt, and they should apologize.’
You can watch the full news item here.
- snake oil salesman promise
- online marketer promising whatever you want will be had with this new …
- preacher promising prosperity if you give and pray and read your bible every day
- sparkly lights of a gambling machine
- dream of things will be better tomorrow if you…
- hope deferred
Yeah she’s a promise
In the year of election
I can’t let you go
Like a preacher stealing hearts
At a traveling show
Desire – U2
You reach for the sky to grasp the money, buy the magic lotion, give the offering, pray louder, longer.
Then, when the promise is not fulfilled, there are the words ‘you don’t have enough faith,’ ‘you have sin in your life,’ or ‘you just need to try harder.’
So you try again and again.
The heart, that seat of the emotions, becomes cynical, fatigued, and in a word, ‘sick.’
There is a verse in the Bible that talks about this.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12
I wonder how much of one’s sadness, depression, angst is the sickness of having hope deferred over and over again. A ‘putting off’ of the sense of being fulfilled to another day.
Emotions get built up only to be disappointed yet again. So a happy face is put on, and off we go again.
Slowly and surely, the heart gets fatigued about life. We give up the dreams of a better tomorrow and become highly cynical about anything presented as a ‘tree of life.’
Protesters march in frustration of broken promises. Protest songs become the mantra of a sickened heart.
We defer to another time that feeling of a ‘hope fulfilled.’
A Desire Fulfilled
A young woman gets married. (desire fulfilled) She has two sons (desire fulfilled). Her husband dies (grief, loss, but she still has sons to care for her)
The two sons get married (desire fulfilled).
Both sons die (hope takes a huge knock). All that is left is herself and two daughters-in-law.
One of the daughter’s in-laws leaves—the other stays.
This is the story of a woman called Naomi. Hopes built up then dashed.
A loyal commitment is made by one of her daughters-in-law, Ruth, to stay with Naomi and help her. To live in the now of whatever befalls them both.
“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.” Ruth 1:16, 17
She and Ruth return to Bethlehem, Naomi’s hometown, to begin again.
So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”
“Don’t call me Naomi,[pleasant],” she told them. “Call me Mara,[bitter] because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” Ruth 1:20,21
Naomi was bitter, angry, and was holding up a protest sign angry at God. Hope was gone; anger was in residence. There was no tree of life being fulfilled in her.
Skip a few years ahead in the story, and we find Ruth married and passing over a young baby to Naomi to hold.
This baby will be part of the lineage, family tree, of another baby, Jesus, that will save the world. A desire fulfilled. Out of the providence of what was in her ‘now,’ something good and delightful emerged.
In that moment of protest
I think we all have moments when we think that life is not fair. Possibly that God has not come through with the promises of blessing, abundance, ‘tree of life.’
We shake our fist at God. We shift from being pleasant (Naomi) to bitter (Mara), and in focusing on the real pain that we are experiencing turns us away from the Ruth (friendship) of today.
The meaning of the name Ruth is friendship.
Isn’t that beautiful. In that time of heart sickness, there was a friendship.
Now for many of us, we might experience a great deal of loss and have no “Ruth’ type people around us. Friends might well depart or avoid.
But there is something bigger going on. There is an invite to live in the now of what I do have.
Please, don’t say ‘Count your blessings’
I want to throw something at people who tell me to
- count your blessings
- be thankful for what you do have
- be more grateful
- list out all the things you do have going right
When people say this, I feel that I have failed again. I am ungrateful. That it’s my fault.
I have been ‘FASSed’ – Fixed, Advised, Saved, Set straight instead of being known.
This is an avoidance strategy used by them not to enter the reality of another’s real pain.
They don’t want to be a Ruth (friend) to your Mara (bitter) pain. They don’t want to ‘go where you will go.’ They would rather stand at a distance and give you their supposedly wise advice and counsel.
I think Naomi would have felt let down, yet again.
The compassionate friendship of the now
Instead, there is a friend in the living of the now. It’s the heart seeing the smallest of hopes for what can be seen in this day, this moment.
It’s noticing the provision of a blessing in this moment.
As I write this, it is early in the morning. It has rained overnight, and all the trees and grasses have had a good wash. Birdlife is singing, and the land feels refreshed.
I watch the light bounce and sparkle out of a drop of rain on a leaf. I sip my coffee, and I savor the tones and aromas. I watch a small bird hop into our kitchen and steal away a small dog biscuit. The small yappy dog is sleeping, blissfully unaware of this crime.
In one sense, I am ‘counting my blessings,’ but in a deeper, more meaningful way, I am entering into the blessings of this present moment. Counting implies logic-based reasoning. If I have this number of blessings, then life can’t be that bad.
This mindful meditative approach into the friendship ‘Ruth’s’ of the moment goes way deeper. It invites an awareness, a shift in focus to the now.
The widows’ mite
When we shift focus away from bigger hopes to the smaller hopes fulfilled in the now, our life is turned upside down. We enter Jesus’ world of widows mites.
Sitting across from the offering box, he [Jesus] was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions.
One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents.
Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.” Mark 12:41-44
In our world, we wooed to focus on the big hopes fulfilled. The five-year plan. Goals of this and that. Building a kingdom and a glory of our own making.
Jesus points us to the heart and love of a widow giving a few small copper coins. It’s in the hope of the small.
I have a dream, a hope, a desire for my future, but it’s in the here and now that I find the tree of life-giving its fruit to me. I watch for the Ruth and the copper coins of today.
Don’t defer your happiness for another time. See it and enter into that which is right in front of you today.
Perhaps, one day in the future, you will find yourself holding an awareness that something truly beautiful has happened.
The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”
Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. Ruth 4:14-17
A hope fulfilled, but not in the way she had believed in.
Quotes to consider
- True spirituality is not about running away from your desires it’s about going into the heart of them. Rob Bell
- Desires shape not simply what we get but much more importantly, who and what we become. They shape our very being. David Benner
Despair is a spiritual condition. Despair is when you fall under the belief and conviction that tomorrow will simply be a repeat of today. Rob Bell
Boredom, cynicism, and despair are spiritual diseases because they disconnect us from the most primal truth about ourselves – that we are here. Rob Bell
- A good journey begins with knowing where we are and being willing to go somewhere else. Richard Rohr
What’s the most important minute in life? I think it’s the next one. There is nothing we can do about the past, and we have limited influence over the hours and days to come. But the next minute—minute after minute after minute—is always full of possibility. Rick Hanson
- The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still, there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater. The Fellowship of the Ring
Questions to answer
- Where have you experienced a deferring of hope?
- What is a blessing of the now you can friendship with?
- Are you protesting against something? What is the invite Jesus is giving you?