The drive over the bridge from Tampa to Clearwater has always been one of my favorite drives. To say it is beautiful is a bit of an understatement. Sweeping 360 degree views of the beautiful, often transparent, blue water of the Gulf of Mexico has caused me more than one time to take my eye of the road. The sun glimmering off the water can be blinding but yet it is impossible to take your eyes off of those sparkles in that beautiful body of water.
I remember the first time I drove that drive. I was 18 years old and I was headed to my first year at Clearwater Christian College. The college was also nestled on the water, and the beach about 12 miles away. As soon as I drove on that campus, I knew I’d found my place. While accepted into just about wherever I wanted to go, this was it and I knew it from the time I drove onto that campus for the interview. I was also granted a full ride scholarship so there was that!
Yesterday, for the first time since the college closing in 2015, I drove onto campus (recently purchased by another college) and as I rounded that corner that I so often took on two wheels at a high rate of speed in college because I was always late, a man stepped out in front of me and held his hand up, refusing my request to merely drive around. As I turned my head to back up, all that I noticed was that all of the buildings were gone. Everything about that campus that made it recognizable was gone. Leveled. I was devastated.
As I visit the images in my mind of rubble, dirt, noise and my rude security guy, the word that first came to my mind was “hopeless”—if a college that was open for 50 years can close, why do I have any reason to believe that there is anything that will stick? And I felt that expectant Greek word—“hope” drain from my heart. It hit me harder than I thought it would, and as I drove off I imaged that pile of rubble and how so many of us must feel that way as we visit seasons of our lives that are those of “tearing down” or never “building up”—you know those days, months and sometimes years that it seems that everything you ever had and loved is gone or the things you want just will never come to pass.
I immediately remembered my own speech (attached below) at the final closing ceremonies at the college. That day reminded me of a verse that almost every professor taught me. My life up until that point was void of hope and this college put this verse in my heart and it never left.
I Peter 3:15b
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”
I began thinking about this verse and it’s meaning when I was 20 years old and in college, or 35 years when I taught it to my high school students, or now when the necessity to give a reason for the Hope that is within all of us is at an all time high.
The word “hope” in this verse is interchangeable with faith or trust. “To look forward, usually with pleasure or anticipation. To have faith that something will come to pass”
So what does that mean, exactly, for those of us who have hoped for many things in life, often with great expectation, or the faith that our hopes will come to pass; what happens when it doesn’t come to pass? We all have these things in our lives; everyone can name numerous times disappointment and dashed hopes consume our emotions. It is confusing when those things don’t come to pass in the way or time frame we want them to happen, if at all.
But here is the thing, and I write this to myself with all love and compassion as much as anyone who will read this.
Why are we so focused on our earthly hopes instead of the Hope that is within us? Why aren’t we telling the world about the Hope that is in form of Jesus and the price that He paid for us on the cross? Because the reality is this Hope has already been fulfilled. Sure, we look forward with great expectation of seeing Jesus, but we get to live on this planet with a sure knowledge that there is a Hope already realized in our lives and I want to learn to abide in that. I want that to be my “go to” word when life feels hopeless…and that is an important question, “feels”–because of that Hope within us, and the promise of eternity, life isn’t hopeless.
Focusing on this Hope has eternal consequences. While I believe God to be a God that wants us to live an abundant life- I think in doing that it is important for us to remember why we have that abundant life, even when it doesn’t feel abundant. Or maybe we can figure out how to take advantage of the freedoms that we have because of this HOPE that is explains the power within us.
Did Jesus hope for pain to go away? In the garden, right before he paid the price on the cross, He asked that the cup of crucifixion be passed from Him. He asked this 3 times! Do you think that in some way he hoped that the Father would deliver Him? None of us can ever understand that kind of “betrayal”—and even worse the Father had to turn His back from Jesus, when that day became night, and our Lord was crucified on a cross–a cross made from a tree that was part of His creation.
But what does that mean for us? After all, we are flawed human beings, with natural hopes and dreams; disappointment is going to happen. Hope is going to be deferred. And we are going to be sad- often for years, if we aren’t careful. And I know that our God understands that and doesn’t stand in judgment of our human feelings when life tries to rob the laughter from our core, the smile from our faces and the hope from our hearts.
As I’ve meditated on this verse, I wonder if the healing balm to our hope deferred on this planet and all the pain that goes with that is reminding ourselves of the ETERNAL Hope that we have and this Hope explains the power within us. This Hope trumps anything we could ask or think for ourselves! A mindfulness exercise of sorts, meditating on this precious promise that we do have a reason for the Hope that is within us, and that Hope is Jesus. Furthermore, let’s not forget the rest of that verse, especially in the global climate of today.
When we have the opportunity to share the reason for the hope that is within us, we should do so with gentleness and respect. That means not ostracizing those who may believe differently from us. We know people are watching us. Are they watching us deal with earthly hope deferred? Are they watching us work that out in our faith? Do they see us land at a peaceful place where we know that God orchestrates our lives and sometimes hope deferred is His way of protecting us?
It all comes down to one question.
Do you believe in the sovereignty of God? Do you believe in His character? Do you have a reason for the Hope that is within you?
These are all good questions and ones that I hope address in this series.
For now though, it soothes my soul to know that there is an unshakable, unmovable Hope that is within me. And that Hope is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. So, as hope gets deferred, it is my prayer that HOPE will be my first thought—the Hope that never will leave me or forsake me.
And when the ruble is there; and the familiar is gone-like it was for me on campus yesterday; turn around—because when I did that, I saw the beautiful Gulf of Mexico. And I realized that nothing I could ever hope for myself could speak that beautiful body of water into existence.
How much more does He love us? Turn around, what’s there?
Here is the link to the video of my speech where I had the opportunity to tell my story and speak about his verse.