I’m addicted to my pastor’s sermons. Which, I think, is a much healthier addiction than my very real addiction to chocolate and baked goods of all varieties. There are a collection of past sermons on ITunes and some times when I’m needing a lift in the evenings, I’ll look for one I haven’t listened to yet. I’m telling you, I’m pretty sure you’d have to be dead to not feel some moving of the spirit within when listening to these messages.
Last week I listened to a sermon that has kind of been rattling around the rafters of my heart ever since. In it the pastor challenged the places that we focus our hope. He stated the obvious: Any place other than Jesus that you put your hope in will disappoint and frustrate you.
As I said, this is obvious and it’s not a new thought to me, but it made me do a reality check. Have I mentioned lately how hard deployments are? Oh, several thousand times? Sorry about that. So anyway… In the midst of a deployment–at the beginning or the middle or even nearing the end when you’re just tired and worn down and the hard has just been so hard it’s so easy to see that ‘end date’ as the thing in which to put your hope. It is the light at the end of the tunnel, and my wonderful and amazing husband gets to be cast as the super hero that will swoop in and chase the bad guys away. I glamorize the welcome home and imagine that when he walks through the door and our family is again complete that the angels and little birdies will sweetly sing and my inner and outer world will be at peace at last.
I’ve been through this a couple of times. And that bit actually happens sometimes. For a couple of days.
Of course if that Rockwellian Happy Ending is what I put my hope in, I set myself up for a rather dramatic thud a week and a half into his being home when I’m knee deep in smelly boat laundry, feeling cramped in bed, and trying to figure out how exactly to let him back in to the running of the household that I have been managing just fine by myself thankyouverymuch.
Because then, the girls get rowdy and wild and instead of it just being me pulling my hair out, it’s me AND my husband pulling our hair out. The dance of reintegration gets tricky and we start snapping at each other as we try to remember how we fit together again and as we assess where we changed and where we grew and where we got harder as a result of the challenge. The honeymoon stage ends and life’s challenges creep in and we all have to re-calibrate.
If I put my hope in this deployment ending… If I put my hope in my husband coming home and ‘rescuing me’ from this hard, I WILL be disappointed. As great as the man looks in tights and a cape (or rather… in Dress Blues and a Dixie Cup cover), I have to remember this.
If I put my hope in Christ, I WON’T be disappointed. And I don’t have to wait til we get to the ‘end date’ to sink into the joy and peace that placing my hope there can bring.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
I’m not trying to over dramaticize things by calling the challenges of deployment ‘suffering.’ When I apply these thoughts to my life though, I categorize pretty much everything that I consider ‘challenging’ as stuff that can produce perseverance and therefore character and therefore hope. Deployments call for perseverance and endurance. There’s just no getting around that.
So I’m doing my best to hang my hat on my hope where I won’t get disappointed. I’m trying to hang it some place that won’t cause erosion to my relationship to my husband. He’s pretty incredible, but if I hang my hope on him, he WILL fail me and then I WILL feel crushed and disappointed and angry.
Some days I have to remind myself over and over and over again–Hope in Christ. He is here NOW. He is in this NOW. The end of the deployment looks like the perfect happy ending, but putting my hope in the right place means that the happy ending is unfolding even as we speak. It is happening in the development of perseverance and character. It is happening in the comfort I find in the hard days and the joys that I can count along the way. It is happening in the places where I find abundant life sprinkled in and amongst the challenging stuff. It is happening in the redemptive work being done inside of me as God faithfully promises not to waste even these relatively minor struggles.
I can’t wait for this deployment to be over, but I’m hanging my hope where it belongs.