Friday, January 26, 2007

Where do I place my hope?


For the last few days, I've noticed my mind drifting to thoughts about hope. I'm not even sure why this has become the topic du jour, but it my thoughts keep coming back to this. And specifically I have been observing where it is that I place my hope. I will notice a hope -- I hope, for instance, that a recent application to go to a conference in South Africa is accepted. And then I am most interested in where is that hope? Who or what does it rest with? Is it inside me, depending on my effort or energy or good thoughts? Have I placed that hope with someone else and now wish or pray or try to influence them in order to realize my hope?

Christianity (and Judaism, too, I think)  is a religion of hope. And both the Bible and theologians through the centuries have had a lot to say about it. So, I automatically "know" the "right" answer. I "should" set my hope in Christ. I "should" hope for that which is beyond hope. Yet, for most of my life, these have been merely intellectual concepts, no matter how well grasped.

Now, for some reason, I keep getting glimpses of. . . well, of a better place to put my hope, If I can call it that, and of the difference that does make and would make in my life. What would it look like, I wonder, to put my hope to be able to attend this conference in God? First, I have an immediate relaxation response. ("That's interesting," I notice.) Then, it would mean trusting that whether I go or not is in God's hands. Not that I should not do whatever I can to make it happen (there is always a tension between self-effort and grace; "God helps those who help themselves."), but it means letting go of "making it happen," letting go of my attachment to the result. And this would mean accepting whatever happens in the end, accepting whether I go or not as the right thing, the thing that needed to happen (or however I need to say that to myself).

In this moment, this strikes me as a very Buddhist approach--detachment--and I've always thought that I was *not* a Buddhist because of this very principle!

The feeling of ease, of relaxation, of peace that comes over me when I let go of the result is so palpable that it is hard not to think that there is some wisdom in this detachment idea. And suddenly, this morning, I saw something, I understood something about my life that has perplexed me for years, that I have struggled with for years. Those times when I was the most happy, the most "in the flow" of life, the most at ease and filled with joy (my most vivid experience of this was when we lived in Italy)--those were the times when I was detached from results, when I "let go and let God" as they say in 12-Step programs. The thing I have struggled with is not knowing why sometimes everything seems to be going my way, life is great, hakuna matata and all that and then there is a change and that experience disappears *and I can't get it back*. Werner Erhard used to talk about having "your hands on the levers and dials" of your life, your happiness and at times I have been nearly insanely frustrated by NOT having my hands on the levers and dials.

This is definitely a lever or a dial--leave the result with God. Bonhoeffer talked about this. (I am now being flooded with memories of every context in which I have been told this truth and did not "get" it in my being the way I am understanding it now.) It is interesting, fun and a bit amazing to observe myself really understanding  for the first time this piece of wisdom that has been in my face, even consciously, for at least the past 25 years. Sometimes the experience of being a human being just cracks me up.

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