Keeping Hope Alive: Radical Courage in Desperate Times

“How do you keep hope alive these days?” the questioner asked.  “It looks to me like everything is going to hell in a handbasket.”

The question sounded like a challenge.  It wasn’t friendly curiosity, and it was full of cynicism.   I felt like I was on trial.  I couldn’t decide if she was shaming me or judging me, but it felt like it could be both.

I started to answer, but then she said, “I’m sure you don’t get ruffled, so don’t even bother to explain.  I just don’t have your faith….or whatever it is you say you have.”

Good grief.   A pack of presumptions laid on me before I could respond to either one!

I thought about that question yesterday morning when I was suddenly startled.  I don’t mean that I was surprised or caught off-guard.  I am talking about one of those sudden, out-of-the-blue happenings that leaves you short of breath and with your heart racing.  In other words, the situation scared me to death.

Granted, it was over almost before I knew what was happening, and indeed, nothing was broken and no one was injured, except me, that is.  I couldn’t catch my breath for a few seconds, and when I did, I began to cry — uncontrollably, the ugly cry, the shaking all over cry.  And for several minutes, I cried like a baby. I think I could say that I was weeping — copiously.  It was serious crying — from my gut.

As I began to calm myself, two thoughts raced to the front of my mind at the same time.  I thought about how my inquisitor would judge me now.  I guess she could have assumed that I was falling apart at the seams.  If she had assumed that, she would have been wrong.

The second thought contained a picture of my dad in a hospital bed, following a stroke.  Upon reading all of the possible things that might happen to him as he was undergoing a necessary procedure — as in another stroke, paralysis, death — he burst into tears.  Mistakenly, the attending nurse chided him by saying, as if she was talking to a four-year-old, “Now, Dr. Ball, where’s your faith?”  I jumped to attention, and so did my mother and sister.  Was that a shaming tone we heard?

I’ll never forget how my dad — a strong friend of God, a man of long-standing faith, a retired 40-year pastor of a local church — took the pen from her hand, and signed the form and looked up at this stranger/nurse and said, “It will hold.  It will hold.”   He couldn’t see the form in that moment, but his voice was the strong voice I knew so well.

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