Originally written in TACKED THOUGHTS for The Freeman
by Nancy Unchuan Toledo
Many spiritual books, the foremost of which is the Bible, assert that we should put our hope in God. The saints, too, remind us, that if we would only be patient and trust God, we will find that God answers our prayers. Look at the rainbow, Genesis tells us, and there we will find a supernatural sign that God does indeed keep his promises.
People who are still starting on the journey of faith often begin with hope. They pray and hope that God will answer their prayers. They believe and hope that God will make himself known to them. They make choices and hope that these choices lead them to the will of God. On the other hand, people who have been on the faith journey longer have moved on from hope to trust. Because their hoping was not in vain, they have come to rely on God more. They pray and trust that God will answer them with whatever is best. They believe and trust that eventually they will see the face of God. They make choices and trust that God will be with them every step of the way. And eventually, that trust will turn to love.
God, however, begins with love. This, too, the Bible tells us. Whole volumes of books have been written on this theme. God loves us. Or to be more personal: God loves me. (And you.) I have come to count on that as one of the few immutable facts of my life. But it was only recently that I came to discover what comes after love.
I can’t even remember where I read it or heard it or saw it. It must have been a holy priest’s sermon or a retreat master’s prayer points or a random poster hanging somewhere. I honestly don’t know. (I would love to take credit for it but plagiarism is a mortal sin in my profession.) I just knew that the moment it entered my mind, it would make a home there and one day it would become an immutable fact too. And it is this: God hopes in me.
I don’t know about you, but that thought just floors me. That God loves me is supposed to be a given. He is, after all, a good God. He’s supposed to overlook my flaws! And if he didn’t love me, why would he have gone through all the trouble of creating me? But that he hopes in me—that’s something I’ll have to chew on for a while. That a God would call on me and hope (not force, mind you—for all his power and strength) that I would answer. That he would put dreams in my heart and plans in my head and hope that I will fulfill them. That he would send his Son to die on a cross for me and hope that I would take him up on his offer of forgiveness.
What makes it so extraordinary to believe in a hopeful God is that hoping, implies a quiet vulnerability that only humans would ever understand. Hope is an artist waiting for inspiration to come. Hope is a lover waiting for the beloved’s response. Hope is a mother waiting for a child to grow.
The God of love sees me and knows my innermost depths. But the God of hope? He knows who I can become and waits patiently for me.