On Mother’s Day, one of the appointed lessons was the story of Paul and Silas thrown into prison – and their response was to sing hymns and pray.  (Acts 16:16-34)  It got me thinking about hope.
 
Hope is one of the three great spiritual virtues, along with love and faith.  In these times, when it is hard to be optimistic, how do we remain hopeful? More importantly, how do we give our children a sense of deep hope?
 
Hope is quite different from optimism. 

Optimism is an inclination we are born with: a tendency to see the glass half-full. 
Hope is a practice that we can choose, build, and strengthen. 
 
Optimism has a tendency to skitter across the surface, like water bugs – not strong enough to endure that which might be perceived underneath the glitter and busy-ness.
Hope goes deep, into all the complexity of life - all its sorrow, grief, hardship, pain, and loss.
 
Optimism is a matter of perspective – how do we look at the world from our point of view? 
Hope is a matter of perception – how do we perceive of the world, not only with our eyes, but our heart and mind?   
 
Optimism says, “I’ll think about that tomorrow” and “Don’t worry, be happy.” 
Hope says, “Today, I will be with you in Paradise.” (as Jesus said to the felon on the cross beside him) and sings hymns in prison.
 
At its deepest truth, Hope is our testimony to the truth that nothing, no hard times, enemies, sorrow – nothing and no thing – can separate us from God and God’s love (Romans 8:31-39
 
No matter where we find ourselves, no matter what happens to us, God is with us. God is present.  We can sing hymns in prison – because we’re already free.
 
How to live into this?  How to nurture this strength in our children? 
 
On purpose.  With purpose. 
 
It begins, I believe, with acknowledging what is hard. Or frightening. Or sorrowful. Or scary. Or lonely.  In hope, in the knowledge that wherever we go, there we are and there God is, allows us (maybe even demands us) to speak aloud our feelings, our situation, the hardships.
 
Never discount the monsters that lurk under your child’s bed.  Deal with them – with respect, integrity and prayer.  (When a parent says, “I am here.” a child learns that God might be here, too)
 
Hope – growing out of the knowledge, conviction, and trust that God is present no matter where we find ourselves – is strong-enough, brave-enough, to see what is.  Never teach your child to hush up or be silent about their worries.  Naming the fears diminishes them – for many reasons, not the least of which is that they are made to come out into the light and shared with others.
 
Once named, and acknowledged, “the worst that can happen” can be seen for what it is: weaker than hope, smaller than God.
 
Links:
Acts 16:16-34: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=acts+16%3A16-34&version=MSG
Romans: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans%208%3A31-39&version=NLT;MSG)
 
Sermon: http://gracesandusky.org/page/sunday_may_8_2016

 

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