Do you live with optimism?
or with hope?
What an interesting question I don’t think I’ve wrestled with before seeing this quote by Henri Nouwen. I’m intrigued by the distinction Nouwen makes between optimism and hope.
It challenges me to think beyond hope as just an attitude focused on everything working out in the end. It invites me to consider hope as a joy-filled manner of living right here and right now.
Last night, I had a bunch of random nightmares that woke me up periodically. I don’t recall most of them. That is, I guess, the good thing. But I do remember that in at least one of them, I was anxiously moving about a house opening door after door searching for something.
Along the way, I encountered people I knew (who they were is now a little blurry) that kept telling me I hadn’t found the right door yet. “Keep going! What you are looking for is not here!”
I think I woke up in the midst of the search. I can’t tell you what it was I was hoping to find behind one of those doors.
But the wandering, the searching, the constantly aching to find something stayed with me when I woke up.
How often do we spend hours, days, weeks, months, or even years looking ahead? Even if we do so with optimism, what does that mean we are missing right here, right now in front of us?
This quote made me consider what optimism and hope might have said if they were voices speaking to me throughout that dream.
Optimism says that in a little while things will be better. Optimism says “If you walk through this period of uncertainty or darkness or grief or messiness, there will be joy on the other side.” Optimism says keep opening the doors, keep walking the hallways, keep your eyes focused on what’s just beyond your grasp.
Hope instead says: “Grace abounds now and forever. God is walking with you now and will remain with you all the way through.” Hope says “Let me help you now. Quiet your racing heart, slow your frantic pace, stop to examine the doors you are opening one by one and find the joy already there.”
So today as we head towards the weekend and the end of the first week of Advent, let us ask ourselves:
Are we living with optimism?
or with hope?