“Totally without hope one cannot live. To live without hope is to cease to live. Hell is hopelessness. It is no accident that above the entrance to Dante’s hell is the inscription: ‘Leave behind all hope, you who enter here.'” Jurgen Moltmann
I’ve wrestled a lot with hope in the last few years. Mostly to try and send it away. “Hope deferred makes a heart sick.” I’ve had enough of being sick. But allowing oneself to venture into hell is a dangerous thing as well. I know – I’ve wandered into hell more than once as of late and couldn’t muster the strength to find my way back out.
I’ve taken to resisting comfort. I’ve fallen for it too many times before. I’ve read the words of scripture and their promises that God will not abandon me or let me fall. My heart has leapt at them only to find that holding onto comfort is like holding onto water as it slips out between your fingers. And God is no where to be seen but my failure is all around me. Better not to let myself try to grab hold any more.
I’ve gazed at the cross with its promise of redemption after suffering. But Jesus’ suffering lasted for a weekend and mine is lasting for years. Jesus’ suffering was probably greater than mine, but it’s not a competition. My neighbor’s broken leg doesn’t make my broken heart hurt any less. I’d say I just want my suffering to end, but the damage has already been done. What difference does it make now?
And then I realize that it is an evil thing I’m fighting with which bids me to remain in hell and refuse comfort as too little too late and far too quickly gone. I’m tired of keeping up the fight. But behind this evil that I’m wresting with are a whole hoard of demons just waiting to rush forward and devour the ones I love. There are generational curses straining mightily to break through. And demons of rejection and abandonment waiting to sink their teeth into young children’s hearts. There’s resentment and confusion that will lead a teen down misshapen paths to no where. There’s weariness and betrayal and anger that never rests looking for unguarded cracks to set up infection in a barely healing soul.
I resent it – being pinned down by all this evil. Having to keep up this fight rather than allow myself to walk away or be swept up by some worldly comfort until it takes my life with it. Even Jesus got to die in the end.
And along comes a three year old who drapes herself into my arms, looks up at me and says in her baby way, “you love me mom.”
Yes I do baby.
“I love you. I love Noah. Noah loves me. Everyone loves me.”
Yes they do, baby.
And then an 8 year old comes in.
“I just want to be with you for a minute.”
“I dunno. I just feel good when I’m by you.”
A six year old brings a picture she’s painted.
“It’s for you. It says ‘joy’! Do you like it?”
She’s made her J backwards so it really says “Loy”.
It’s wonderful, pretty girl.
“Joy” it is.
I start to find my feet again for the first time in days. The evil’s still there, but I’m not pinned down under the force of it now.
Later I’m stumbling again and a 17 year year old boy stops to put on a song for me before putting his arms around me. When he was younger he made his own sound effects every where he went. Today, he keeps a sound track going.
“What you need to remember is that you’ve done good, mom. Even if the rest of the world is to stubborn to admit it to you, you’ve done good.”
I wanted life to be better for you. I didn’t mean for it to be this hard.
The thirteen year old chimes in.
“We’d both be ruined if it weren’t for you. Life is hard. But at least we know that we can handle it. That’s more than most people can say.”
And finally, finally, the ones I keep up the battle for have gotten me steady enough on my feet to walk away out of hell and away from the evil. I don’t know that I’m ready to hope exactly. But I think it will be a while before I wander back into hell again. And that’s no small thing.