By Rev. Jerry Herships
Well, first things first: I’m not doing the assignment that I was given. When Rethink Church reached out to me to write this piece, they originally asked me to write an article called: “How do you keep hope alive?” I had to change it right off the bat. I’m not going to tell you how “you” can keep hope alive.
I will talk a bit about how “we” can keep hope alive. I’m going to write this to myself and let you look over my shoulder.
I will say this: Now more than ever, it takes a village.
I think that’s the first thing: We are going to have a hard time if we try to do it alone. I think never in our history have we needed each other more. Your energy as a community will help decide this. As someone once said: Your vibe attracts your tribe.
For me it comes down to three things and the first one is community. I think this is the draw of my congregation, AfterHours, first and foremost: it is a tribe of people with positive energy and a desire to do good. At the same time it’s not about steering clear of tough conversations. Keeping hope alive is not about avoiding hard conversations. It is facing those topics head on and then CHOOSING how to respond. Nelson Mandela said, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” It isn’t burying our head in the sand, fingers crossed, praying that the problem goes away. It is seeing the challenge and then taking action. It is putting action to our prayers. And it’s the kind of action you choose that matters.
It also is about connection. Specifically, connections through kindness. It’s easy to get angry. It’s easy to want to lash out. It’s easy to see red. Here’s the thing: punching at the darkness doesn’t work. Never has. The only thing that works is bringing in more light. Notice I said “more”. There already IS light. There is ALWAYS light. Desmond Tutu said that “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.” For those of us that follow the Christian faith, Jesus names himself as that light. This is one of those verses we don’t have to search around for what Jesus meant. In John he flat out tells us, “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12). Earlier in John it says, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5 for those of you playing along at home). Clearly, this is a theme that God wants us to remember.
For me, keeping hope alive is finding those places of kindness in our communities that shine some light and then connecting with them. There are plenty of people throwin’ shade in this world. We can do better. At AfterHours we fell into an accidental slogan: “Put more love in the world”. It really CAN be that simple. Find the light…and plug in. Maybe that looks like a soup kitchen. Maybe that’s visiting a nursing home. Maybe it’s shoveling a neighbor’s driveway. It doesn’t have to be going to a flood zone half way across the country. (Don’t read that wrong, that’s awesome.) I’m guessing there is some darkness right in your own back yard. Read a book to a kid; yours or someone else's. When we are part of the light, the darkness doesn’t seem so dark. And there — right there — is hope.
Lastly, it’s about continuing on. It is the ability to keep on keeping on. This might be the hardest one. Being positive is hard. Shining your light is hard. Choosing acts of kindness and compassion and love can be hard. But making those choices time and time and time again? That’s REALLY hard! But it beats the alternative. It beats the darkness. This is where the power of the community can really pay off. Not EVERYONE has to do the good EVERY TIME. Sometimes we run into “compassion fatigue.” We get burned out. We get tired. When this happens, it is helpful to have a community around you to lift you up, to have your back, to say, “sit this one out…I got this.” This alone can provide us with hope. We don’t all have to turn our lights on at once. We can work together. Unlike a string of Christmas lights, just because one is out doesn’t mean they all are.
So that’s it. That’s my recipe for how WE keep hope alive: Community, Connection, and Continue. Make no mistake, it isn’t easy. It’s much easier to moan about the state of our world. It’s easier to get angry, watch CNN and FOX and Twitter 24/7 and feel more and more hopeless. The thing is, that’s not what we have been called to do. We are told to be like Christ. That’s all. That’s our ENTIRE mission statement. Three words: Be. Like. Christ. . And if Christ was the light of the world…we should be, too.
The darkness did not overcome him. It won’t overcome us either. Especially if we band together. We can do far greater things if we plug into the light that is in each other and is our source.
It truly does come down to choice. What lens do we want to look through and what choices do we make as a result? Pick those lenses carefully. Find your community, connect thru acts of kindness. And then? Then…continue on.
Here’s to vibrant, active, joy giving hope.
We can make it so.
Rev. Jerry Herships is a speaker, author and founder of AfterHours Denver. His book - LAST CALL: From Serving Drinks to Serving Jesus is available through Amazon and Westminster John Knox or through his website www.jerryherships.com. He is working on a second book now, coming out next year, dealing with the topic at hand: How we put more love in the world and connect to a greater good.
[Posted on December 12, 2017]