Last week we wrapped up the year with an admonition to spend some time contemplating the profound concept of hope, and there does seem to be a fresh manifestation of it these days. The problem is that I’m not sure it’s the same kind of hope I was thinking about. Indicators of all kinds of hope seem to be popping up everywhere, but unfortunately, the hopes most prominent on a personal level don’t seem to be reserved for things like the economy or the war zones that some of our inner city streets have become or the impending clash between the irresistible force of Donald Trump and the immoveable object of an embedded Washington establishment. When it comes to our day-to-day lives, we seem to have more urgent things to hope for.
Hoping for Important Things ~
Everyday Americans tend to focus hope on things they actually struggle with, major real-life questions like, “How on earth did I allow myself to get this fat, and how can I lose 30 pounds by April and not have to give up pizza?” Resolution to relevant issues like that are what people tend to hope for in 2017 America. Globalism and far away things don’t really excite most of us. The world of technology, for instance, tries to fill us with hope for our future by promising all kinds of trinkets waiting for us out there in the digital frontier. Artificial intelligence, they tell us, will soon drive our cars and control everything in our house. In spite of that, real people don’t seem to be drooling over the possibilities of artificial intelligence invading everything. We don’t get goose-bumps over the idea of a computer chip grabbing the wheel of our pickup truck and parallel parking it for us or calculating the precise millisecond when our toast should pop up. The truth is that real people see folks on the road every day wheeling around through traffic with what appears to be a total absence of any intelligence at all. Sure, there will always be folks who have more money than most of us, and who cringe at the thought of having to actually touch things like steering wheels and thermostats, but that’s a fringe group. Real Americans tend to hope for practical things …, like a fabric so stretchy that you could make a bathing suit out of it and put it on a full-grown hippopotamus. To say the least, we want a hope that is personally relevant and focused on something that matters to us.
Hope – Looking like People on TV ~
Most of us really do hope for more than just another gadget we can acquire in two days from Amazon Prime. We want lasting personal transformation, even though our history of achieving that may have been about as effective as trying to wad up cellophane. We continue to hope we can look like those people on TV simply by dialing the number and getting that exercise gizmo for only $39.95. We want to morph into bodies that look slim, sleek, and sexy just by engaging in 15 minutes of fun per day, and we want it all to happen before spring.
Hope Should be Healthy, Too ~
But our hopes are not so locked in external vanities that we ignore the deeper things. We also aspire to become a robust picture of health. It’s just that we’d prefer to achieve that goal without having to actually eat all that junk on the ‘Mediterranean Diet’. In the first place, Mediterranean folks obviously aren’t from around here, and we don’t really care what they eat. Beyond that, weeds and nuts and berries and slimy ocean-going creatures don’t make good gravy, and they don’t work well on a biscuit, even if you fry them first. We’d rather focus our hopes on the possibility that 2017 will bring a fresh wave of research heralding the health benefits of service station hot dogs, jerky snacks, and an occasional bag of pork rinds.
Our Real Hope is for Transformation ~
In spite of the dizzying array of directions toward which we project our hopes for 2017, one thing is clear. There is no shortage of desire for some degree of genuine personal transformation in the year ahead. Unfortunately, what that transformation actually looks like can get a little muddled, and any real expectation of actually achieving it ranks right up there with single-handedly capturing Bigfoot. Maybe that wouldn’t be the case if we had a basis for hope that was more dependable than the latest digital revelation or some revolutionary dietary discovery.
God issued a challenge filled with hope and possibility that is worth considering as we begin the year.
“… Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2 NKJV).
The culture surrounding us will do all it can to manipulate the powerful mechanism found in our hopes and desires for a better life. It can become a tool to mold us into an image that is tragically failing everywhere we look. The goals that the popular media sets before us and the way of life the world worships has produced more anger, fear, violence, hatred, grief, and loss than can be calculated. Maybe before we force ourselves into some kind of convulsive set of rituals whose promises may only deliver expense, exhaustion, and a fresh round of excuses, we should consider God’s alternatives.
Those who place their hope in things that cannot make them better people ultimately end up depleted and disillusioned. As Paul’s words affirm, the life Jesus Christ challenges us to live is “good”. It is “acceptable” to the One who will judge us. And it is “perfect”—no improvements possible. He followed the statement above with a lengthy description of the kinds of ideas and behaviors that not only make us and the world around us better when we apply them, but that also inspire hope in those whose lives we touch. What a winning way to start a brand new year.
© 2017 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
To follow this blog for more ‘Right Side Up Thinking ~ In an Upside Down World’, sign up just below the ‘Search box’ in the upper right sidebar for regular email notifications of new posts.