I ordered freshwater pearls off the internet to adorn my neck on my wedding day. Their rough, imperfect sheen was just the look I wanted. Classic, but not as perfect as the identical spheres I imagine gracing the necks of British Royalty at a tennis match or June Cleaver as she welcomes her children home with a perfect lipsticked a smile. The necklace arrived barely in time thanks to a very slow boat and were unfortunately inches shorter than I anticipated.
It was a small hope. A small vision of a desire that held little weight in the grand scheme of life. The hope was dashed; the necklace was unusable. I was starting over. As I ripped the cord that held it all together, individual pearls bounced across the table, over my floor, and all over my tiny apartment.
There are times in our lives that we are more apt to line up our hopes. We buy into them allured by all their shimmering beauty and wait for their arrival. Beginnings are often particularly hope-filled. The first day of marriage. Walking into a new job. Graduating with options before you, ready to try anything. There are also times in our lives when our hopes fall around us, fleeing at the least expected moment. Have you ever felt your life was like that string of disheartening pearls? Each pearl a hope, a dream, an aspiration spilling out on to the floor. Falling with rattles of unmet expectation.
I don’t know when exactly it happened, but I realized that each time my hopes were scattered, I returned with fewer pearls, a thinner string, and a half-hearted attempt to rebuild. Lost jobs, the monthly reminder of infertility, and other circumstances rained down and threatened the hope I knew I should be full of as a Christ follower. How could I go back to being a person full of hope instead of expecting for the worst at every turn? I wished I could get the person I was on my wedding day back. I missed having a string of hopes lined up neatly.
Hope Comes from Him
“Rest in God alone my soul for my hope comes from him.” Psalm 62:5
My tidy little line of expectations couldn’t hold under the weight of life in a broken world. They may have been “normal” expectations for life, but good desires unfulfilled led me to question the goodness of God, who had never promised me neat or tidy. My hope couldn’t rest on the things God may or may not grant me in life. True rest and hope come from knowing that God is good and good to me, whether or not my plans come to fruition. I continually come back to Psalm 16:5, “Lord, you are my portion and my cup of blessing; you hold my future.” When my hope is in God, who gives me all I need, I can keep from fretting about what is to come.
Put your Hope in Him
“Be strong, and let your heart be courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord.” Psalm 31:24
To keep on hoping we must put our hope in the right place. When I begin to feel despair I step back and find my hope strayed and wandered into the lap of anything other than the Lord. No relationship, success or desire will last forever. All else eventually falls flat. At times I need a daily reorientation of my hope. Practically this looks like spending time to ask the “what if” questions that lead me back to anchoring my hope to God. What if the job is lost? The child never comes? Health continues to deteriorate? Will God still be on the throne? Is he still good, merciful, and full of unfailing love when the hopes you had never come to be? Undoubtedly.
Hope Does not Disappoint
“This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:5
Disappointments can tend to threaten our hopes if we have elevated them too highly. The description found in the book of Romans tells us hope does not disappoint and in Romans 15:13 scripture says, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” This is the life I actually want. Our hope is not based on circumstances but in our peace with God. Our relationships with him allow us to be full of expectation despite the troubles and situations we cannot control. In fact, hope that does not disappoint is described in tandem with the Holy Spirit in the book of Romans. The words “poured out” and “overflowing” remind me how we cannot hold back or control God’s actions in our lives. Hope comes when we are willing participants in the plans he has for us.
I eventually did restring those freshwater pearls in the weeks before my wedding. Several lengths of clear fishing wire held the rough pearls, knotted, and strung through in a way that both braided the individual strings together and left solitary pearls dangling resolutely in their own space. To keep on hoping we must let the master designer craft our life in this way. Our hope isn’t in the plan turning out neatly, but our hope rests on God who knows the best way to put the totality of our lives together.
Holly Hawes writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. She is 30-something and has been married to Josh since 2010. She is Mom to a teenager by adoption, a child she’ll meet in heaven and often “bonus kids” via foster care. She loves creativity, the PNW, books, flowers, and sharing Jesus with hearts that need him.
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what a thoughtful analogy! love you friend