Down We Go: A Dangerous Way to Live

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Jan_KathyMany of us are afraid to hope. It feels dangerous.

We have seen too many of our dreams dashed. Jobs lost. Relationships crumbled. Addictions have tried to destroy us and people we love dearly. Illnesses have robbed. Church experiences have hurt. Some of our adventures didn’t turn out the way we had hoped. God hasn’t delivered the goods the way we had prayed for.

So we hunker down our hearts and do whatever we can to protect it against believing that good is really possible—again, or maybe for the first time. Often, we settle for loneliness. We settle for disconnectedness. We settle for going-through-the-motions. We settle for familiar.

The thought of something more sometimes hurts too much.

What if we make ourselves vulnerable and hurt again? What if we try and they all get dashed anyway? What if we risk and lose again?

The “what ifs” mount, hope gets held at bay, and we miss out on the thing that Jesus kept pointing to over and over and over again—life now. Love now. Hope now.

This new year I am reminded that pretty much everything Jesus calls us to is quite dangerous, risky, scandalous. Why would hope be different?

Hope will require a risk. It will require sacrifice. It will require working against our reflexes to run, hide, self-protect, self-medicate. It will require believing in what is unseen. It will mean we will hurt. It will mean we will be afraid. It will mean taking steps on a path we are unfamiliar with. It will require us letting God’s spirit move in our hearts in ways that are mysterious, scary, and maybe unfamiliar.

As I write this list, I realize yet again how it’s easy to say these things, but how do we move toward getting over our fear of hope’s dangerous-ness?

Here are a few possibilities:

– Admit what we’re really afraid of. This has been my #1 practice for 2013—asking myself, “What am I afraid of?” whenever I am in some kind of tension. Usually, it’s about being afraid to fail, being misunderstood, being rejected, being unloved. Is it being afraid to fail? Are we afraid of our heart hurting? Are we afraid that we’ll just end up mad at God again? What is it that freaks us out about hope?

– Seek courage in the small steps. We sometimes have such a high expectation of ourselves, that we’re supposed to somehow “take the hill” tomorrow, having conquered all that holds us back. For me, that usually just leads to failure, shame, and anger toward myself for my lack of faith and courage. Small steps keep hope alive, especially when we celebrate them together in community.

– Expect it to hurt. Hope’s going to hurt. It’s supposed to. It means we are still really alive. Jesus made very clear that following him would mean pain, but in my humanness I keep trying to find a loophole. Hardened hearts do not hurt, but soft open hopeful ones are sure to. I think we need to get better at bracing ourselves for hope to hurt.

– Recognize that hope in circumstances is not the same as hope in God. Over and over in the scriptures the psalmists cry out “we hope in You, God … our hope is not in the world, but in You.” It is so easy to rest our hope in outcomes, tangibles, things-the-way-we-want-them-to-turn-out. This is why I have been so disappointed over the years and also why real hope is so dangerous. Real hope means accepting somehow that things may not be how we had hoped, but that our hope in God mysteriously supersedes circumstances.

– Strain to see God, feel God, hear God wherever we can. We sometimes get so blinded by our pain, fear, busyness, and self-centeredness that it becomes difficult to experience God’s spirit moving, revealing, challenging, strengthening, encouraging, and pushing. Especially when hope is waning and our anger or ambivalence is getting the best of us, we will need to strain to see God in small wacky ways that might normally be missed. In the eyes of a friend. In a word of encouragement. In a song. In the mountains or the sea. In a crisis. In our children. In a scripture. In wherever-we-feel-a-flicker-in-our-heart-that-reminds-us-God-is-with-us.

Yeah, hope is dangerous. I am afraid of it, too, but I sense God nudging me in all kinds of ways to let him fan more and more of it into flame—to risk my pride, my heart, my comfort on hope’s behalf.

I love Romans 15:13 in The Message:

Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!

This new month of a new year, as we focus on hope at SheLoves, I pray that we will be willing to open ourselves up to hope’s dangers. To risk on its behalf. To take steps toward life that scare us. To let God’s spirit move in ways that make our hearts come painfully alive. To open our hearts to justice, mercy, and beauty in new ways.

To let hope propel us to love.

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Kathy Escobar
Kathy Escobar co-pastors The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver. A trained spiritual director, speaker, and advocate, she also blogs regularly about life and faith at kathyescobar.com and is the author of Faith Shift and Down We Go—Living out the Wild Ways of Jesus. A mom of 5 young adults and teens, she is married to Jose and lives in Arvada, Colorado.
Kathy Escobar

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  • Amy Hunt

    YES, Kathy! I am with you. Both in the fear of the pain, and in the restlessness to trust His ways are so much better than mine and that the hope He gives me is for purpose. Praying for all of us to loosen our grip on our attempts to control and choose to let Him lead our hearts because we want His more glory more than ours. Continue to loosen us to reflect more of you, Jesus.

  • If we don’t have the sense that we are foolish and that risk is at hand we probably aren’t engaging with real hope. Choosing hope always leaves us acutely aware of our need for Jesus to come with us, it’s excruciatingly vulnerable and exposes our beauty. A wild and scandalous place to be sure.

  • HBurns

    I can’t think of a better way to embrace this new year with hope – everything you share here about what life teaches us is so true, but we always hope in and embrace God and the adventure He calls us to! Love this: ‘Strain to see God, feel God, hear God wherever we can.’

    Here’s to a stunning 2014! Thanks for all you do and share so generously with us Kathy.

    With so much love and appreciation,

    Helen xo

  • Angela Meeks

    Amazing Word. I love this. I prefer life with a timeline, detailed plans, goals, steps, my ducks in a row, However I think my ducks were someone elses target practice. Learning to embrace hope. Learning that embracing the hope and pain produces product in your life. Here we go 2014 – taking Risks!

    • yeah, my duck row sure doesn’t look like a duck row!

  • Oh Kathy, this spoke to exactly me today.
    This past year has been about bravely hoping, and it feels that all of those hopes were dashed. I’m loving those words in the message, and remembering that hope is a discipline, and also a gift.
    Thank you. xx

    • i like that, a discipline and a gift. thank you.

  • Anna

    Kathy, this post was timed perfectly. It spoke volumes to my heart and felt like a little nudge from above;) Everything here is what I’ve been struggling with in the past year. I’m weary, tired and feels like my back is against the wall some days. It felt dangerous to hope that circumstances will finally change and that dreams will finally be realized. Thank you for your beautiful words, Kathy, and this:

    “Yeah, hope is dangerous. I am afraid of it, too, but I sense God nudging me in all kinds of ways to let him fan more and more of it into flame—to risk my pride, my heart, my comfort on hope’s behalf.”

    • yeah, i can so relate to the word “weary”..

  • I love that translation of Romans 15:13…green hope. Wonderful. I needed to read these words today!

    • That stood out for me too, Michaela. Green hope. I love that.

    • thanks michaela! i love that translation too

  • “This new year I am reminded that pretty much everything Jesus calls us to is quite dangerous, risky, scandalous. Why would hope be different?”

    This particular thought seems to be on repeat in my world lately.

    First Rachel’s piece, I Want More Than Comfort For You: http://shelovesmagazine.com/2014/morethancomfort/

    And now this! 🙂

    Clearly, God is trying to get my attention. Thank you for always bringing truth, Kathy.

    I love you,
    Teen

  • Boelle

    Kathy, this post was so relevant, I had to share it on fb, and invite over 30 friends to the fb page.You said so much with empathy, and also encouraged us with some suggestions. May God continue to encourage you as you go through whatever deep waters you experience–since you “get it”. You are living out 2 Corinthians 1: 3-7.

    • thanks for sharing and for your love and encouragement. it means a lot…

  • Bev Murrill

    Kathy, I love the possibilities you’ve given here, but especially ‘expect it to hurt’ because a hardened heart can’t hurt and if we want to be anything like Jesus, we can’t afford to let the hurts harden our hearts. Great post.

    • yeah, i wish people would be more honest about how much it hurts!

  • Always, always so good. Thank you, Kathy.

  • cjdeboer

    Oh I needed this today Kathy – thank you. To admit what we’re really afraid of – that’s a biggie. And to expect it to hurt? Wow. You’ve given me a new perspective on the reality of hope.

    • thanks for reading and taking time to share. it always is so encouraging to be in the same boat with others.

  • Judy

    You and all of y’all commenting have no idea how energizing it is to realize that it’s not just me going through this. And Kathy, that “our hope in God mysteriously supersedes circumstances”, yep, that’s green hope, alive hope despite the world. I am eagerly hopeful for this community and this year here.

    • thanks for sharing, judy. i have loved reading these comments, too

  • K

    I can barely respond but must thank you. I started reading saying “I cannot risk hope and just considering it hurts.” Your gentle understanding makes me feel less alone, myself and my disabled daughter who just keeps getting sicker. Hope for positive recovery news has to end or my soul will finally die and she’ll have no one. This is the “what I am afraid of from hope.” Hope for God to get us through and bring us both finally home and whole one day–I can consider. With empathy from someone I don’t even know, I can take another breath. God uses you to get beyond the fiercest defenses.

    • k, thanks for your honesty. hope in the midst of so much reality does sometimes feel like too much to ask. my heart aches with you.

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  • Saskia Wishart

    Reading this quite a while after it was posted – yet today was perfectly the day I needed these words. Last night I sat staring out the window talking with a friend and simply saying I am so afraid to hope again, afraid to trust God. Afraid to let my heart be open to the potential of more heartache. Your words are healing and challenging Kathy. Thank you for this.

  • sdporter78

    Wow…just what I needed as well! Thank you Kathy! Hope in The Lord is key. Indeed that fear of hope still lingers in me but what you’ve laid out in this piece is truly amazing and I definitely see things that I will work on and even somethings I can testify to. God Bless!