A version of me once existed that was grossly optimistic. I use that term both to mean an overwhelming abundance of optimism and to mean as a disgusting amount of optimism; a cheerleader known for her big bows and energetic facial expressions. I was far from dark and twisty. I was bright and shiny. There were mean girls who made fun of me because of it, which made me a little less bright and shiny.
But along the way, I continued, no I continue to experience pain and loss and death, some seasons worse than others. It's foundational to the human condition. It's the rust, the corrosion, of Sin with a capital s in the world. I can't hide from it, and neither can you.
To be clear here, I am grateful for every ounce of dark and twisty that I've encountered in my life. I carry the scars that the pain from those events caused like badges of honor. I am a better person for having felt pain. I am a better Christian because I know loss.
I know darkness: the depths of darkness. And I know how when the tide is flipping you upside down, you feel hopeless. I happened to have a handful of conversations over the last couple of weeks with some people walking through or just having walked through some devastating loss. And the relationship between pain and hope continues to return to the forefront of my mind.
In the times that I felt like I may never be me again, I remember having two very distinct thoughts about hope. OK, they may actually be feelings about hope. First, I simply feared that I may never feel hope again. And for a believer, this can be more disorienting than the pain itself: fearing the loss of hope. Secondly, a much deeper current of assured peace ran through my soul. I knew hope would return despite my blindness to its presence. And here I am, today. My grandmother, who is slowly losing grasp of so much, can't stop saying how happy I am. She can't see much, but she sees that.
I am perplexed by how that happened. But I know how that happened.
There's that scene in the first Men In Black movie where Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones go to visit one of the aliens, and Tommy Lee Jones shoots the guys head off. And immediately it grows back. It's kind of gross, but undeniably interesting. It really confronts our whole understanding about death. His head regenerates. It grows back. Regeneration: something growing back from seemingly nothingness. It's simply a term that we don't understand very well.
That's hope, for the Christian.
And this is where we have to talk about the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Even when we think our ability to love, to hope, to feel joy are dead; the Spirit within begins to bubble up. And He renews us. He replaces the hopelessness with divine Hope. It's not something we can work towards. We have to get out of His way, and be honest about where the death is so he can seed and grow new life again. But there it is. Growing. Regenerated. New. Bright and shiny from where dark and twisty used to be. Amazing.
This is Gospel, deconstructed: God going to the place of death, and bringing new life. And He does it every single day. And He wants to do it for every single person. Is there anything more beautiful?
I don't mind being optimistic again because even though I have scars, I've had a front seat view to the love of a pretty awesome God.
Romans 5:1-5 (NRSV) - Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
May you be reminded, or experience for the first time, God's love being poured into your heart through the Holy Spirit.