A Practice of Hope
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31
Last fall, I was on a trip to Washington, DC with a group of youth from the church where I work. We were spending this time visiting different sites and learning about environmental issues and Native American cultures in preparation for our spring break trip. On our second day there, we visited a faith-based environmental justice organization to learn about the policy advocacy work they did. This was timely, given the fact that the United Nations had released the very bleak climate change report. Our meeting went very well and they provided a lot of useful information about the work they do and how we can do the same in our own church.
Then, it came time for questions at the end. Due to the seemingly bleak situation our environment was in, I decided that my question would be, “How exactly do you maintain hope when you do the kind of work that you do, especially when everything seems so hopeless?”
The answer I got has been tattooed on my brain ever since. One of the activists responded, “As a Christian, I am not called to a feeling of hope. I am called to a practice of hope.”
This is something that particularly struck me. When working for justice in the name of God, when everything seems to be lost, or that things will never change, our hope is an act of defiance. Sometimes we have hope because the alternative would be much more than what we can bear. To me, that hope is important because what are we supposed to do otherwise, wallow in despair?
I try and remember this when it feels like the work for inclusion in the UMC gets too difficult, or it feels like the dream may never come to fruition. Perhaps things seem hopeless, but that is exactly the way the forces of wickedness want to make us feel- the forces of wickedness that I vowed to resist during my Confirmation. Practicing hope is an act of resistance. This is what keeps me going, that perhaps by maintaining hope in the midst of struggle, we have a better chance of bringing the kin-dom of heaven to earth than if we were to get lost in our despairing. Our church cannot be inclusive without hope. Our world cannot be changed without hope. With hope, and with God, all things are possible.
Alex Carney (she/her/hers), queer United Methodist and Virginia Conference member, currently getting her Master's of Divinity at Drew Theological School.