Saturday, April 27, 2013

Hope, in the moment

In recent years I've realized that much of what passes for hope these days is hope for an outcome. This is interesting (not to mention challenging) to me, because as a person of faith I'm called to have hope. Specifically, I'm called to have hope in God. That is different than hoping God will do something for me, like give me the outcome I want.

Last night I went for a walk with a neighborhood friend. She, too, is facing numerous  challenges. As I told her a bit of what was going on in my life, she rolled her eyes and said, "You must be constantly praying, 'Lord, get me through this!'"

"Well actually, no," I replied, surprised to hear myself say it, "I've almost completely stopped praying that." And it's true. Somewhere in recent months, as things have reached ever more ridiculous levels of impossibility, I've stopped the Calgon prayers. My first impulse is no longer to escape, but to be present.

A few weeks back I was trying to encourage/persuade/convince my PTSD child to break a large task (getting up and getting dressed) into smaller chunks. First, sit up. After that, stand up. Then take off the jammie top. Etcetera. We were aiming for the really basic stuff. The child refused to do any of it, because it was too scary.

I could feel my frustration rising, which is what happens when I don't know what to do. So I did what I always do in that (embarrassingly common) situation: I prayed for the words that were needed.

What came out was this: "I'm not asking you to do anything you can't. But I am asking you to do every single thing that you can."

Oh. Oh, yes! That was exactly it. If you can sit up, do that, and focus only on that one thing. If you can stand up, do that, and focus on the one thing. Do what you can, step by step, until you reach the point where you truly cannot go further.

It was exactly what I needed to hear, too. Because I think that's what God asks of us: to do every single thing we can do.

God doesn't ask me to handle this whole impossible thing: in this moment, I'm being asked to do what's required for this moment. That's all. And that I can do. It's the old, "Take care of the moment, and you take care of eternity" thing.

Here's the thing:
I can't do it if I'm focused on more than what is asked of me for that moment.
I can't do it if I'm focused on what I fear will be asked of me in the future.
I can't do it if I'm focused on how much I don't want to be in this situation.
I can't do it if I'm focused on the echoes of past difficulties or frustrations.
I can't do it if I'm focused on my lack of wisdom on what to do.
I can't do it if I'm focused on anything other than being 100% there, open to whatever I need to be open to, with a heart that yearns to do what is asked of me.

It helps me understand hope in God differently. And to have more hope, in general.

It makes so much sense to me. Does it make sense to you?


  1. My battles are much different than yours, but obviously the solution is the same. This helped me so much. I think I can face the coming week one, single thing at a time. Thank you.

  2. Oh yes - and concentrating on the step in front of me and not looking too far ahead (which I agree can be too scary) has worked. Quakers call it 'moving forward in faith' and it is hard but worth it.

  3. Wow. I am going to share this with my Companions in Christ study group. It is very appropriate for our current lesson.

  4. Hi Julia, I have been thinking about this a lot today. I have recently been in that place where all I could do was just do one more next thing. Maybe it's a sign that I am moving forward, but now I feel like I've lost that luxury in a way. I have to start making plans, decide which direction I'm going to go. Somehow it's hard for me to break that down into little manageable chunks and look at them one at a time. I wish I could figure out how to do that.

    1. It's probably no consolation, but the only way I've gotten to this point is *because I had to*. Sometimes life gets so overwhelming that my brain simply can't process more than the very next thing.