Scarlett O’Hara and Princess Leia had something to say to me in prayer this morning.
I’ve seen some simultaneously funny and depressing internet videos about the awfulness of the past year, essentially saying “goodbye, 2016, and good riddance!” Last week I had to write up a summary of some of the projects I have been working on and by the time it was over I realized I had a stress-induced knot in my neck. The light began to dawn: maybe my own 2016 wasn’t so great, either. I re-read my summary and began to grasp the number and the scope of the challenges I slogged through all in this one single year. And I muttered, “Dadgum. No wonder I have been so stressed.”
So, at the end of my little New Year holiday break, I ended up in the chapel reflecting on the year, and the challenges, and the toll it has taken, and something unexpected welled up inside me. It took me a few minutes to find the right word. Rebellion. I am putting my foot down. I am not going to have another year like this past year. 2017 is going to be better. It will be. I insist.
Now of course you can see the problem here. Life is going to go on, problems and all, and I actually have no control over most of what I have to deal with. Entirely new and unexpected problems and set-backs and losses await me, I know it. So what is going to prevent having Very Hard Year, Part 2? This morning in prayer, I wasn’t sure, but I was entertained by the unbidden memory of Scarlett O’Hara, hair disheveled, fist raised to heaven, vowing, “As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again!” Admirable determination, but Scarlett was ready to lie, cheat, and steal to achieve that end, and those options are not open to me! So what do I do?
I believe God always works with the materials at hand, and does not whine about what He wished He had to work with, or what he had planned to work with, if only we had not messed everything up. This is pure grace. Every day is a new day, I am loved exactly as I am right now, and there is always a way forward with God, no matter how badly I might have dug myself into trouble.
And right now, the materials God has at hand to communicate with me are from movies, I must confess. I think I can avoid spoilers by simply saying that I recently saw Princess Leia clasp the plans to the Death Star in her hand and say the single word, “Hope.” And that image stayed with me in prayer. Right after Scarlett O’Hara.
Hope isn’t faith, and it’s not optimism, and it’s not wishful thinking or creative imagining or grim determination, which, I think, is what has fueled me more than I care to admit these past months. Hope is the grace to focus on the one thing, do the work set before me with the materials I have at hand, knowing it is not my work and not my mission. It is God’s. The theological Virtue of Hope, that is what is going to make the difference. 2017 will be a better year. It will be. I insist.