Hope Beyond Wishes
By Bentley Stewart
Hospitals can feel like a wilderness, especially when your beloved has become a patient and you are forced to wait patiently ... or wait anxiously ... or perhaps, waiting is waiting.
Outside of the hospital, the "civilized" world continues. There are governors and other rulers. The president might have been replaced by an emperor. Who knows? Who cares?
You are focused on wrestling with the sacred on behalf of a life you hold precious. You wish to wake up from the nightmare of the present reality. Only, you keep discovering that the dream world and waking life have switched.
Wishes offer magical escape from difficult realities. Temporarily, this can be a good and valid coping mechanism.
Hoping and wishing are different.
For some people, "hopeful" means "unrealistic." Many of us guard our hearts from disappointment by refusing to risk hope.
Unlike pseudo-spiritualities built on wishing, hope faces and engages the present darkness. Hope sparks our imagination about the future. These alternate narratives of possibility awaken memories of God's faithful presence. The hope for Emmanuel buoys us, while simultaneously doubt and despair threaten to drown us.
Luke quotes Isaiah, who quotes a voice. The voice is calling out in the wilderness, away from our civilized world. We understandably wish that the voice is calling us to escape the madhouse of our lives. However, the voice instructs us to prepare a way into the world that God so desperately loves.
That wild voice dares us to hope. Can it be, despite all evidence to the contrary, that God is not done with this project of creation? Can it be that God is coming in the flesh? Can it be that our flesh, all the flesh of creation, will see salvation? Can it be that we are called to prepare the way?
Bentley Stewart is a master of divinity student at the San Francisco Theological Seminary.
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