HOPE. We throw it in like a pseudo-synonym for crossing our fingers. But lately the weight of the word has been sinking deep in me.
I work at a day job where I stare into faces devoid of hope. And it isn’t just my students in their too small jeans and unkempt hair- traces of an old bruise that I can never be sure came from typical kid blunders or a parent’s heavily thrown backhand.
It isn’t only the dads with altered smiles due to the meth that took their teeth. Or the mothers who roll in wearing overly low tank tops, fuzzy jammie pants, house shoes, and what appears to be a countenance of confidence but really comes across as fear in the way they won’t hold eye contact. And it isn’t even the other teachers who confess their frustrations in a way that makes you know the only hoping they do is hope the school day ends without any major screw ups or another blow of devastating news. Really, it’s all of it. It’s everyone. It’s no one. Hope is hard to find.
Sometimes I feel like the life I lead is small. I’m Kathleen Kelly - I feel like a lone reed leading a valuable but small life. I’m caught up in paperwork and planning, reading data and high stakes testing. It’s easy for me to forget that’s not why I’m there. CRTs are never someone’s ministry. My ministry is HOPE. I have it. I point to it. I wallow in it, so Jesus can leave traces of it everywhere I go.
When I took this job as a teacher, I thought I knew what I was getting into. We never know. Why do we always think we know? Sometimes I even catch myself saying, “I finally understand what God is doing!” Even in my mind I’m cracking up at that ridiculousness.
I thought I would teach kids things like math and reading strategies. How to master an outline like a boss. Maybe even how to navigate a relationship with a peer. Instead, God knew what he was doing. Because HE knows the plans he has for me. HE knows. So instead of teaching writing and reading and science, this month alone (9 days into October) I have done what feels like everything except teach letters and numbers.
This month I prayed for a woman who was trying to decide whether or not she should abort her baby. She’s well into her second trimester, but the doctors think the baby will be deformed. No arms. “There’s no HOPE.”
I also held an 11 year old boy while he sobbed on the playground because his mom is going to jail. He’s the oldest of many children. He’s without HOPE.
I spent time at the broken home of a student and watched as mom, dad, and stepmom tried hard to be civil and push their hurts and insecurities down deep. Their HOPE is small.
I prayed for a co-worker who is at the end of her choices before chemo and radiation are her only HOPE.
I watched a little girl attempt to navigate the trauma of learning people in her extended family were murdered. She missed school for the funeral. She said she’s fine. She doesn’t need to talk to anyone. And it’s true that her face is straight and she seems unscathed by it all, but when we ask mom about it, she begins to list the trauma this little girl has already walked through. It’s heavy enough to make my eyes get misty and forget for a second where my HOPE comes from.
As I took it all in, I tried to come up with all the ways I could fix these problems. Some great plan to help everyone not hurt so much. But every plan seemed to only put me in the way—God’s way. I needed to love in small ways and leave room for God to be powerful. If I don’t, then I leave no room for HOPE. there’s no space for God to say, “I got this”.
I don’t know how any of these stories end. I don’t know if that woman chose to terminate her pregnancy - a little girl who I call Hope when I pray for her. A little girl I would scoop up myself and let her use my arms to hug us both until our hearts burst if God would just say the word.
I don’t know if my co-worker will live. I will never see that little girls family reconciled with a life cut short. I don’t know how to help any of them. Not on my own.
But I can share my HOPE. I can give it away. I can recognize that I was created for such a time as this. I can be a lone reed standing tall and burning brightly, pointing the way toward HOPE.
Jeremiah 29:11 says, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” We can be tempted to look at this verse and get caught up on the part that says God has plans. But maybe the more important part is that God knows the plans. He knew our hardship was coming, and even better, he knows exactly where it’s going. And the whole time we can confidently trust in the God of Hope.
Written by Shontell Brewer, blogger and author at www.shontellbrewer.com. Used with permission.