Ragged Endings and Nagging Hope

There is a strange raggedness in it all. Dear friends have recently lost a granddaughter at birth. Conceived in love and hope, this little one grew in the security of the womb, albeit bearing impairments that threatened hope for health and life. All did their best to keep the faith but instead faith now keeps them. The tiny life seed came to shattering death and loss and grief. The sure hope of life beyond is the only hope now. Thankfully it is enough. It has to be.

In a much less troublesome development, I prayed that a bare area on the campgrounds where I work might have some mature trees. It was admittedly a whiny prayer, “O God, why do I have to settle for saplings? I want shade now!” Within seconds of the prayer God answered with a phone call from local arborist friend inquiring as to whether I could use three 12-foot firs. I tingled. Immediate answered prayer and a whiny prayer at that! PTL!! God is good! I feel the Spirit!

The trees, now one year transplanted, are struggling for life. “Winter burn” the man calls it. We’ve watered, fertilized, and prayed (God gave us trees, He should heal them…right?). The trees hang in the balance, more everbrown than evergreen. I’m embarrassed that I shared the “miracle” in the first place. I’m a hope-a-dope…but I just can’t stop hoping.  

Stories with ragged endings and smashed dreams attract me. Not because they feel good. They don’t. In fact, I feel anger. They fascinate because they make life life. An adventure without risk or surprise endings or dead-ends would be no adventure at all. So I grudgingly accept the disappointments and the pains as something unfinished, awaiting a tidy ending somewhere, sometime. Redemption will come and just maybe the thorns will become a crown. While splitting the firs into firewood someone will deliver an entire nursery. “We were closing down and thought you could use a bazillion trees!” Or maybe it will be less spectacular, like needing the firewood more than trees anyhow.

The lifeless baby will be quickened, toddling with open arms up to her family in the age to come. My friend will hear “Papa” from that voice for the first time. Meanwhile, there will be megatuplets to keep the household alive, loving and crazy busy until then. The pain will never go away, but it will be bandaged with lots of happiness. Or, maybe this family will just have much deeper resources to help other families face terrible loss. I don’t have answers. I just have hope. No matter how many times the endings are ragged, I cannot stop hoping.

I lay much of the blame for this challenged but unflagging hope on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the story that keeps on giving in literature, film and life. One human breaks the pattern of death and destruction as the inevitable sad ending and all humans ever since keep hope alive. Celebration gave way to accusation and crucifixion. The Palm Sunday parade terminated at a tomb. The song of the children became a dirge. The throngs went home. Friends scattered. But…

“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb…” “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!’” (Luke 24:1,2,5 & 6)

An unfaithful friend of Jesus was later an eyewitness to the empty tomb, and then hung out with the resurrected Christ. Peter wrote something that explains our nagging hope:

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole. (1 Peter 1:1-3, The Message)

Hope won’t let go and neither should we. There’s good reason that “hope springs eternal.” I don’t think we really need to “keep hope alive.” It’s like Jesus. It won’t die. Let’s twist the phrase to its proper shape: “HOPE…keep us alive!!”

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