Hope doesn’t land on Paul’s list of the Spirit’s fruit. Perhaps it was just beyond the apostle’s reach. Or perhaps it flew out of his grasp entirely. “Hope is the thing with feathers,” wrote poet Emily Dickinson in her own unique, edgy precision. The problem with the waning light of winter is that it’s too dark to see the trees, much less anything that might be perched there. Dickinson captured the fragility of hope, particularly that sort of hope that invests in outcomes.
We all hope for lots of things—and not only things with feathers. Like a Christmas list, it’s endlessly open to revision. One of my nieces keeps resubmitting hers as the latest fads vie for top billing. She wants shoes, that’s clear, but there the common thread unravels. She wants a pair of Nikes, with flashing lights that can be seen at night. This seems a healthy way to approach the descent of winter’s darkness. Then there is another entry: turquoise, open-toed, stiletto-heel party pumps—with sequins. She has the 12-year-old attraction to glittery, flashy things.
Considering the likelihood she’ll get either of these pairs of shoes, her hope for them borders on the fantastic. But that’s the problem of investing in outcomes: most of the time we don’t know what to wish for.
Captive to desire and fancy, fad and fantasy, what we hope for alters too quickly. And sometimes in the darkest moments we don’t know what to hope for at all.
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