Lately my friend Mark and I have been talking about the value of hope, and not, unfortunately, in a cheerful way. We both have illness that we have struggled with for a long time (he much longer than I), and agreed that it was easier not to hope than to hope and again and again be disappointed. It felt wrong to me, but that’s where I was. And still am to some extent. What about Philippians, suffering produces perseverence, perseverance character and character hope? Well, I may need character building, I’ll grant you, but I don’t really see that Mark does. Enough already.
Before I share the thing that cheered me (somewhat) up, I want to share the lyrics of a couple of songs that have been channeling my frustration and hopelessness.
“Because the keys to the kingdom got locked inside the kingdom
And the angels fly around in there, but we can’t see them.
But I’ve got a girl in the war, Paul, I know that they can hear me yell.
If they can’t find a way to help her they can go to hell.”
~Josh Ritter, Girl in the War
“I wish you would
Come pick me up
Take me out
Fuck me up
Steal my records
Screw all my friends
They’re all full of shit
With a smile on your face
And then do it again”
~Ryan Adams, Pick Me Up
I’m not really sure what that last song means to me, other than a hopeless resignation, but it is somehow very satisfying to hear him sing, “Fuck me up.” Like, I don’t care, do anything to me, it doesn’t make a difference at this point. A lyric from Ray LaMontagne did that for me last year,
“Well I looked my demons in the eye
Laid bare my chest said do your best destroy me
See I’ve been to hell and back so many times
I must admit you kinda bore me”
So this is how I’m cruising along, and I’m not saying that I’m doing badly: I’m getting things done, I’m officially on staff with IV, being paid for my job, and a lot of other things in my life are coming together, too. But there’s that lack of hope, and the feeling that I don’t want to hope. Then Mark finds this:
Let us in all the troubles of life remember – that our one lack is life – that what we need is more life – more of the life-making presence in us making us more, and more largely live. Let us rouse ourselves to live. Of all things let us avoid the false refuge of a weary collapse, a hopeless yielding to things as they are…he has the victory who, in the midst of pain and weakness, cries out…for strength to fight; for more power, more conscious-ness of being, more God in him. (George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons)
I have been choosing the false refuge of a weary collapse, a hopeless yielding to things as they are. I repent. The victory is not in me being strong, the victory is in crying out for strength. More power, more consciousness of being, more God in me. May it be so, for me and for you.