As we embark on the spiritual theme of vulnerability in this month of March, I want to take on the question of hope. Brené Brown, who has spent her entire career studying vulnerability, points out that hope is not an emotion that we have but is, rather, “a function of struggle which we develop… hope (is not found) during the easy or comfortable times but through adversity and discomfort.” (From Atlas of the Heart) Vulnerability, then, is necessary in order to confront the adversity of our lives and come to a place of hope. In other words, no real change comes to us without our opening up and confronting the struggle of our lives.
The only way to hope is through the struggle which stands in our way. This has been true for me personally as it has been for the congregations I served. We must face the struggle and go through it if there is to be any hope for our future.
Along the way we may feel that no hope is possible. As Brown writes: “anguish not only takes away our ability to breathe, feel and think – it comes for our bones…The element of powerlessness after a great loss makes anguish traumatic. We feel we are unable to change, reverse, or negotiate what has happened.” And yet, if we can survive from one moment to the next we may find the smallest sign of hope.
Years ago I spent the day with someone who had lost her child in a car accident. There is nothing more anguishing than that. I found myself drawn into that place, wherein I could only be present through the pain. For many months she seemed unable to function until one day she saw a bright red cardinal on a brown bush. That cardinal was hope’s perch for her soul. “I saw the sign” she said, “that life goes on.”
As we open our hearts up to the deeper ways of the Spirit, I hope you will bring your whole self into the endeavor. The way back may be hard, almost impossible, but with time the universe sends us a sign to which we can hold, as life calls us on.
Yours always, Rev. John