Sunday, July 1, 2012

Musings About Nothing

For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. (Rom 8:24-25 NAU)

Sometimes there's this feeling of hopelessness that settles over a person.  It's heavy and bleak and threatens to smother you like a soaking wet blanket of black nothingness.  But it's not real.  Not really.  The feeling is real.  The situations that bring the feeling are real.  But hopelessness isn't real.

Somewhere, I recall Augustine saying that evil is just the absence of good.  Like darkness is the absence of light. It's not a real thing.  It's the experience of not having present access to the thing  That's what hopelessness is, if you think about it.  It's really nothing.

That's important to remember because hope is always there.  Light is always there too, sometimes it's out of sight, or hidden from view or on the other side of a relentless, thick wall of rock or steel.  Sometimes it's a million miles away, in another galaxy even.  But it's always there, even if it's not here.  Hopelessness can't be unless hope is.

What's stranger, hope isn't really hope unless certainty is absent.  I have often heard people say that they know God is [insert pious observation here].  I've never understood it.  I've sat sweating in fear as the altar call rolled across the pews full of throbbing guilty consciences , "Do you know for certain that if you died tonight, you would go to heaven?"

Here's the thing.  Nobody knows anything for certain.  It may sound mean, but it's just a fact.  Worse still, it's scripture.  "In hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope."  You can have trust.  You can have confident assurance.  You can even have a warm fuzzy feeling way down in the depths of whatever that thing is people stubbornly and wrongly call their heart (at least there's something visceral in the KJV calling it the "bowels").  But the one thing you absolutely do not have is certainty.  No matter how many times you tell yourself or anybody else.

If you have certainty, you are hopeless.  That's a rather dismal and confusing thought.  Let it be.

But hopelessness isn't real, because hope is never not there.  Jesus is hope.  Even when it feels like the world is a black hole sucking away every bit of hope it gets close to, Jesus is that star blinking and burning in the distance.  Drawing.  Inspiring.  Calling.  Reminding us that the darkness hasn't won.  Can't win.  Can't even really be.

Sometimes I set aside all this scientific prattling that has lodged itself in my brain, and I wonder.  I wonder if maybe we could punch through that great black film of space, we might find on the other side a world of pulsing pure light and hope.  Maybe some day I'll find out.

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