Friday, July 10, 2009

Resurrecting Hope in Transition

Uncertain, unpredictable, volatile, inconsistent... these and many other unstable-oriented adjectives (UOA's) are occupying a good portion of our society's thinking these days. We are in an age of transition. Transition is OK... for everyone else. Tolstoy said, "Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." When UOA's call for me I'd rather not pick up the phone. They're messy and usually call collect. Yes, I've had lots of experience with change. Jobs, deaths, fires, relationships, and parenting have all brought opportunity for immense transition. One would assume that by now I would be able to navigate these waters with a great outlook. Not necessarily.

I had a conversation with our 14-year old daughter recently. She knows our family is almost certainly facing some kind of dramatic change in the near future. She went out of her way to assure me that whatever the changes were, she was committed to being positive. I was so grateful to hear her unsolicited encouragement. I looked at her for a moment and thanked God for her.

And then I asked God to protect her.

Because hope can do something for her but it can also do something to her.

Don't get me wrong. I want her to hope. It's what we're told to do. "Be joyful in hope". I know it's good. But I've lived long enough to know that anything good can cast a shadow. In the case of hope, the shadow is called vulnerability. The truth is, hope opens me up to potential disappointment in a way that not hoping doesn't. Hope is a down the road, future-oriented investment and like any good human I'd rather have the immediate payoff of anxiety.*

Still, her resolve helped me. The 14-year old is positive. I will be as well. And you can be too. Wrestling with transition has helped me come up with three action points for you...
1-Be still. Be in the moment. You cannot fast-forward and you can't afford to go in reverse. The only thing left is to be where you are, right now. Something internal must happen before the season changes and internal things can't be rushed... nor the seasons.

2-Hold on to what you know is true. (Which is what the pastor from Mtn Valley reminded me last weekend.) There are many UOA's out there that may or may not happen. Focusing on them only makes life overwhelming. Simplify. Focus on what you know to be true and then let all the other things come or go as they need.

3-Accept responsibility of being joyful in hope. Not choosing to hope is giving into fear and blame. Sometimes the only person you blame is yourself. It feels tough but it's really not. When you blame yourself it reinforces fear. Then you end up convincing yourself that you cannot do this, you cannot change. Well, that's not an option so accept the responsibility.

*June Issue of The Atlantic - George Vaillant - provides interesting study on happiness and hope.

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youthpaztorwife said...

How encouraging to read in this tumultuous times we are living in! Be right where you are on the way to where you are going. Thanks for sharing, Jonathan! Keep the hope!

Jonathan Foster said...

thank you!

Diane Markins said...

This isn't about your post...I just didn't have other contact info for you but wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed hearing you preach today at MPCC. I really hope you will be the "ask first" guy any time we need a sub.
It was a bit uncanny how your message paralleled by blog post (Fakin'It)from 6 am today. Keep up the good work! I always enjoyed your worship music too so thanks for using your talents to bless God's people.
Diane Markins

Jonathan Foster said...

thanks diane

i appreciate it.


Jeff said...

Interesting stuff. I found your blog via "Wrecked for The Ordinary". One of the ways that this post resonated with me was the stuff about our kids. It's somewhat easy for me to step into the unknown for myself. As for my kids? Well, that's another story. One of the things that's been on my heart lately is that I think maybe in sheltering them from some unpredictabality I rob them of oppurtunities God wants in their lives.
One of the things that I'm really clear on is the vulnerabality thing: to live the life we're expected to live we have to keep making the rather absurd decision to make ourselves vulnerable, over and over again, placing our selves at the mercy of others. It's a counter-intuitive, almost stupid decision that is nonetheless expected of us, I think.

Jonathan Foster said...

thanks jeff, so true.

vulnerability is kinda absurd. then again, i suppose Jesus was tempted to say that as he was carrying his cross.

Anonymous said...

JF have you been spying on my life? I am newly divorced and on the verge of a move from my home town of 41 yrs. No kids, but really scarey. I have a hard time "living in the moment". I want to hit the fast forward and speed as far away from any painful past as fast as I can. BTW, It's a great job offer, but this interview process and the waitng are hard.
Thanks for the guidance. RTK

Jonathan Foster said...

"I waited for the Lord and he heard my cry." What I read this morning out of the Psalms.

Anonymous said...

40 RTK

Jonathan Foster said...