“Hope is rooted in memory” – Boundaries
Sometimes fear tells me that nothing is good. Life is impossible. God is dead. Miracles don’t happen. There is no hope.
My vision narrows, my peripherals blur, and my empathy focuses only on the suffering with no hope for healing, even healing after death.
Fear grips me the most strongly when I think I have to know everything. I have to know why things happen, what’s good and bad, what my future is going to look like, and, especially, what is true.
The problem is that I think I need to solve all of the world’s problems in my own head, when I live surrounded by others who have experienced what I have not and know what I don’t.
Perhaps it is the individualistic culture that I have been raised in, but I feel that I have to do everything on my own. But even the existence of the Scriptures reminds me of the importance of community. Not just the community that surrounds me now, but a global and eternal community–a “cloud of witnesses” that we can come to with our questions and fears and griefs.
We are never the first ones who thought something or felt something or feared something. All we have to do is open a book or talk to a mentor to know that we are not alone.
In Boundaries, Dr. Henry St. Cloud and Dr. John Townsend write that “hope is rooted in memory.” They explain how looking back on times when we have overcome helps us have hope for the future.
I love this. I have experienced it when I look to the future with all of my fear wrapped up in the unknown, and then someone reminds me of where I have been and how I am living the future I once feared. I experience it during Lent when we talk about how we exist in a constant celebration of what has been–the resurrection of Christ–and the hope of what will be–Christ’s return.
But sometimes my own memories are not enough to ease my fears and doubts because I haven’t yet experienced everything or learned everything there is to know about God and life. I begin to feel that God has left me alone, somehow, letting others experience God’s self in ways I’ll never know.
But I’m beginning to see how memory is collective.
I don’t have to rely on my own memories for hope and truth. We are not made to find all of the answers in our own individual experiences. When we share stories, we pile hope into an already vast collection of shared hopes and triumphs–stories of faith and overcoming despite all of the reasons to despair.
We can dip into that collection any time.
This is why we have Scripture, and it is why we have the church. It’s why we have the ability to pass down stories, whether oral or written.
I also believe faith is collective.
We have no faith at all without our shared experiences and stories. I may have never experienced healing in my body, or the voice of God in a tangible way, or the strong, unrelenting conviction to go somewhere or talk to someone or give my life to a specific mission. But others have. And I have experienced things that others haven’t.
This is why it takes community to make the body of Christ. As individuals, we can only express a fragment of who God is.
Yet I don’t always want to think of it this way. I don’t want to get out of the comfort of my own mind and understanding. I don’t think I need church or community or even the Bible. I can figure it out on my own. If I haven’t experienced it, it must not be true.
But I am learning that to be alone is to only see a glimpse of God and not the full picture. We cannot know God without knowing His followers, and we cannot know hope without hearing the stories of others.
Too often, my own fears are caused by isolation. I forget that I am surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. I forget that I can turn to others. I forget that it’s okay to not be able to do something alone because we are not made to be alone.
It’s not only okay to lean on the hope and faith of others, but I believe we are designed to.
I remember this every time I talk to my grandmother and experience a transference of hope and faith simply by hearing her tell her story. I remember it when I read books by Corrie Ten Boom or Brother Andrew or Elizabeth Elliot. I remember it when I talk to my friends and family.
That’s why I believe there will never be too many writers, too many blogs, too many books, too many films, or too many songs. Every story is a memory of hope.
Let’s continue to tell our own stories and to listen to the stories of others.
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