“Hope is not something you have, it’s something you do.” -Joanna Macy
I think about hope a lot these days. What is it, how do we ‘keep’ it, how do we find it if its lost. These ideas of hope betray that so far, I’ve thought of it as a thing, something you possess and therefore something you can lose.
These days, there’s a lot of talk about lost hope. I can feel the despair—in my own city, in cities I travel to, in local, national and global news. Hopelessness seems to have taken hold.
I remember once talking to my sister Meghan about how she does it, the constant work of HIV/AIDS prevention in a nation so consumed with the disease, where so many children are left orphans and where people are truly desperate. After visiting her there, after looking into eyes that were yellowed with despair and disease, I felt only sadness and smallness, my own insignificance in the face of so much poverty and powerlessness. I asked Meghan, how do stay hopeful, how do you do it? And she said, just that, I DO IT. I do something. When she sees so much that needs to be done, she’s motivated to work that much harder. She is tireless and single minded in her pursuit—love and justice, a better life for those suffering the most.
For her, hope is a verb, hope is a doing, hope is an action step.
Joanna Macy, the internationally renowned environmental activist and Buddhist teacher, says that she’s not an optimist. She sees the devastation facing the planet and can’t really be both optimistic and realistic. She acknowledges it might indeed be too late to reverse the destruction of our earth home, and yet she still has hope. When asked what hope, then, is to her, if not optimism, she says, “hope is something you do.” For her, hope is action, protesting a government that refuses to see reason, advocating for change at all costs, teaching our children how to love and care for the earth, developing a spirituality rooted in a God whose very body IS the earth itself, made up of all plant, animal and human life. (check out Tami Simon’s very awesome interview with Joanna Macy on the SoundsTrue podcast which you can find HERE)
Hope is a verb.
The more I study and pray about the person of Jesus, about the true Christian path, the more I am convinced that for the Christ, and the Christ consciousness we are all called into, this is central. Hope is a verb. We are called into ACTION, coupled with deep contemplation, for the betterment of the entire global community and planet earth we call home. It is action rooted in the deep confidence of a God who lives and moves and has God’s being here and now, among us. Jesus’ entire ministry was a dance of time spent opening to this Divine Presence (usually in nature) and time spent in active, constant work towards the building of the kin-dom of God. It’s not something we can speculate about, theologize about or be converted into once and then sit back, content in our salvation. We must participate in its becoming, cooperate with God in a way that requires our activity. Salvation—the awakening into and constant turning towards wholeness—is an ongoing process, a constant expansion into the Love that is ever-multiplying and pulling us along in its force. This Love catches us up, transforms us utterly, and asks us to participate fully in the constant creation of love and justice ON EARTH. This is not something we get to wait for, as if heaven will appear or call to us somewhere off in the clouds. It is something we get to help build. It is something we MUST help build, if this human race has a true hope of surviving.
Jesus wasn’t just healing and performing miracles and teaching and calling for justice for all, especially the most vulnerable—he was modeling a revolutionary way of life and asking us to do the same. He was empowering all people to live actively in love and service for the betterment of the human community. Have you noticed that in so many of his healings, when someone comes to him to be cured of blindness, or paralysis or bleeding, he asks them, “what do you want?” Then he waits for them to say, “I want to see/ I want to walk/ I want to be whole.” He waits for their agency, for their power, for their responsibility and always turns it back to them, often with the words, “Your faith has saved you.” This is not a reward for some pious disposition. It is a deep invitation and empowerment to PARTICIPATE in the life of healing action that is the birthright, and the responsibility of every human being. It is YOUR faith that has saved you. He seems to be saying—please don’t put me on a pedestal and give your power away. Live into who you are, into what you are capable of, and use it to love and serve others.
I see so much of this happening right now, so many people being propelled into action, moving and speaking out and advocating in ways never before seen. Perhaps it is a tipping point of sorts, a rising of hope directly proportionate to our need for healing and change. We realize we cannot wait for others to do it– we must be the ones to take action. We are longing for and living into a faith that acts. We are finding the power to heal within ourselves, held within the greater web of this interconnected human community.
Hope is a verb. It lives and moves and breathes and has its being IN US. Let us go forth to believe this hope, but mostly, to live it, to become it, to act with love and justice.