catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 5, Num 18 :: 2006.10.06 — 2006.10.20


Deep, dark hope

I’ve always been struck by the presence of paradoxes in Scripture: the now and the not yet, the trinity as three and one, the resurrection bringing the most enduring life out of death, etc.  So it comes as no surprise to me now that I would find myself being drawn to ruminate about the presence of both Darkness and Light paralleled in my own story.  Daily, I watch the two play out, vying for my attention, emotions and reactions in an almost visible battle.

Let me tell you a bit about my story and how I got to this particular paradox.  Three and half years ago my 31-year-old husband, Matt, was two weeks from the end of a very long stint at seminary.  Our life was lookin’ up.  Graduation was one month away.  He was offered his dream job working with college students in a part of the country we considered “home” and we had just purchased our very first house. Together, with our two boys, then ages one and four, we were headed back to begin a new and exciting phase in our lives together. 

Two weeks later he was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer and a swirl of horror rose up around me.  It was as if I could physically see the various pieces of my life crumble right before my eyes.  The next 13 months was a flurry of “battling” cancer, desperately trying to ward off the inevitable.  When he died in May 2004, our journeys parted ways.  His headed toward a complete embrace of the fullest healing God offers this side of the new heavens and new earth, while ours stayed on the path of trying to make sense of all this “through the glass darkly.”

You can well imagine how the next few months and years since have gone:  lots of grieving, lots of confusion, lots of grace, but mostly just lots of survival.  Coming to terms with new identities as individuals and a family in the aftermath has been an almost daily challenge.  Though cancer is no longer officially with us, in many ways it feels as if it still rules our lives.  It regularly hovers over us, taunting us that we will forever have the names “widow”, “fatherless”, and “single mom” as part of our stories.

Then, about a year ago, still very much in the middle of the Darkness, a friend mentioned the possibility of a bachelor friend of hers named Hank.  Of course it was “too soon”, but he sounded amazingly well suited to me, and so I invited the friendship.  What started as engaging e-mails became regular visits and soon after the knowing that something significant was brewing. The timing was weird, the grief was (is) still present, but there was something powerfully good and Grace-filled happening in the midst of our deepening friendship and love.

Now, here we stand a year into our love affair, wondering where this will lead and both hoping for a long, happy future together.  But, my point is not at all about the power of romantic love to save us, or to rescue us from our Dark places.  The truth is—the presence of romantic love for me has only highlighted my Dark places and called them out more fully for what they are. 

I continue to wrestle daily with the presence of cancer in my life, an example of where Darkness Himself seems, by human explanations to have “won.”  Yet, I believe God calls me to Hope—a counterintuitive or irrational—maybe even fanatical—Hope.  Will the expression of Hope and restoration always be through the replacement of romantic love in my life?  Probably not.  But it’s provided a profound crucible for me to dare to trust that God and His Goodness still rule in the larger picture when all the evidence in my daily life is to the contrary.

Sometimes the effort to move forward into Hope is too much and I want to throw in the towel, go back to the simplicity of just one huge emotional effort rather than two.  Some would say that is wisdom and just plain emotional good health. Yet, I am too taken with this idea of chasing Hope from within the places of shadows to turn back.  Somehow I feel as if I spit in the face of Darkness every time I delve into a new area of trust with Hank, or I forgive him, or we dare to hope for the future, or I allow the natural magnetism between he and my boys to continue. 

It’s required tremendous courage to continue to absorb and accept the pain, loss, and suffering and move toward a Hope that dares to hear the names “wife” and “son”.  This, then, is where I believe that Hope and Courage must be good friends.  I do not know what the future holds for me and Hank.  There are, as of yet, no promises and certainly no guarantees. I do believe we are expected to take into ourselves the cost of life here in the “now and not yet.”   Could the acceptance of the way Darkness has wounded me be a cousin to forgiveness, and thereby be removing its primary power to destroy?  I like to Hope so.

Dating in the midst of these complications will continue to provide an arena in which to build up the muscles to walk forward into the unknown of God’s kindnesses.  Whether this relationship works out in the end or not, the deeper pieces of learning to boldly pursue the ultimate Hopes that God calls us to—in the midst of precarious circumstances—will not be forgotten.  That, if anything, is the best reason I can think of to hunt down Hope in the most unlikely of places.

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