LIVING IN HOPEhope

Aren’t we lucky that we have a faith built in hope?  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)  “For in hope we were saved.  Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what is seen?  But we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:24-25)  But therein lies the rub:  I think it is more human to need, or, at least, to want something concrete, or seen, on which to hang our faith.

My book club recently read and discussed a book, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.  This novel is the 2015-16 Great Michigan Read, a biennial statewide literary program sponsored by the Michigan Humanities Council.  The novel is set in Michigan, but a very different Michigan from where we live now.  Here’s how the Michigan Humanities website summarizes the book:

Station Eleven is the story of the Traveling Symphony, a troupe of Shakespearean actors and orchestral musicians traveling the shores of the Great Lakes in a post-apocalyptic Michigan.  Striving to maintain their humanity in the altered landscape of a world where 99% of the population has been wiped out by a flu pandemic, the Traveling Symphony operates under one credo: “Survival is insufficient.”

            Station Eleven is set in a world turned upside down, but is ultimately an exploration of people surviving and remaking their lives by preserving the qualities that make us human:  culture, art, and the humanities.

The book received very “mixed reviews” by the members of my book club from “I hated it” to “One of the best books I’ve read.”  Ross told me that members of his book club where it was also read and discussed rated it the full gamut on their rating scale of 1-5.

It was a hard book to read because there was always that little bit of truth nagging at you—maybe something like the Ebola virus could destroy civilization, maybe we are all doomed because of terrorism, maybe . . .   So while some were declaring it a sure description of the doom and gloom that could befall us, I had the gall to say, “I found the message of the book hopeful.”

In spite of the devastation that has occurred, there are some who are keeping alive the literature and music of the destroyed civilization.  There are some who are creating newspapers to maintain the need to communicate within and across communities.  There are some who want to preserve memories of a past by setting up museums.  All are acts of hope.

When we are confronted daily with the world news broadcasting yet more terrorism, more random gun violence, more devastating diseases, it gives us little concrete reason to live a faith in hope.  Yet it is often little things that make a difference.  Bob McQuilkin shared with us on Sunday a selection by Howard Thurman from The Inward Journey in which he reminds us of this.  He says “there are days when everything seems difficult” [or the world around us seems to be all bad news] . . . . “Again and again there are the little healings of silent breaches which sustain us in our contact with the world and with one another.  We are stunned by the little word, the unexpected silence, the smile off key; . . . then without apparent cause, the whole picture changes and the spirit can breathe again with ease, the spring in the step comes back again. . . . It is good, so very good, to experience the quiet ministry of the living spirit of the living God.”

I am in awe of a young writer who seemed somehow to grasp this in face of the most difficult circumstances imaginable.  Even after living two years and one month in hiding, Anne Frank writes in her diary on July 15, 1944,

“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out.  Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.  I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death.  I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”

I think this 15-year-old Jewish girl really understood the message that our God has given, “It is the Lord who goes before you.  He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

Jesus said, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

May you live in Hope,

Dianne Stephenson, Author