I conclude these series of blog postings on hope – and what it means to foster a resilient hope in the organizations of which we are a part – with a call to one of the key indicators of hope: patience. It may seem a little ironic to speak of patience in that in Part 2 of this series I spoke about persistent and perseverance. But truly, the two go together.
Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke of the long arc of history – which, as he put it, bends towards justice. It is that line – the “long arc” – that is essential to the vision, the way of being and seeing, that marks women and men of hope. Their resilience is marked by an underlying patience.
Fundamentally, of course, this is patience with God – to let God do God’s work in their lives, in their family systems, in their communities and in their world – in God’s time. We can sigh with the songwriter Bruce Cockburn and ask: “why does history take such a long, long time?” We can pray with the prophet Habakkuk who wonders what God is up to and, most notably that God’s actions are delayed. But the genius of this perspective is the assumption that we have not given up on God and that hope is ultimately about saying, with Dame Julian, “all is well and will be well and all will be well.” The arts and our mutual encouragement keep us anchored in this long term vision for the God who will make all things well. And as such, patience is a fundamental mark of what it means to be a people of hope.
As I write this during a pandemic I am struck by the obvious signs and indicators of impatience: those who are a little too eager to get back to “normal” – whether it is Sunday worship like we used to do it and so enjoy doing it, or whether it is back to the local pub and our usual routines, or if it is hanging out at the beach. Whatever the case, we are impatient and we want all of this go away so that we can go back to way it was and that we want it to be.
But if we are truly women and men of hope, it will be evident in our capacity to wait. The difference, of course, is that we wait not in frustration or despair, but with patience.
And in the meantime – as we wait – we are attentive. As noted [Part 1 in this series] we acknowledge where there is loss [and we mourn]. And we persist, doing what must be done not to force the issue but to move us, even if only gradually and incrementally, in the right direction (Part 2). And we guard our hearts – not carrying the grudges from the past or allowing discouragement to settle into cynicism [Part 3 and 4]. And as we wait, we lean into the means of grace by which our hearts and minds are encouraged. We do not walk alone or isolate ourselves from those who can be and are a source of encouragement to us.
And in our patience, we hear the words of the Apostle Paul who in Galatians 6:9 urges that we do not grow weary in doing well.