I chose HOPE as my word for 2022.
Usually I have more confidence in my choice, and this year, something in my gut said, “Pick it!”, but it felt so…off. Uncomfortable. I think I’ve had such distaste for hope because it requires a tolerance for uncertainty. I like tidy, sure things. (But I went with it anyway, because my gut is very loud sometimes.)
I’ve been thinking about hope a lot since I chose it—reading devotionals and journaling about it—and I realized that this is a word I say all the time.
But I have been using it so very carelessly.
When I say, “I hope so,” which I so often do, I almost never have the confidence, belief, or trust that the word signifies.
When I say, “I hope so,” what I actually mean is, “I wish.”
When I say, “I hope so,” what I actually mean is, “Maaaaybe, but probably not.”
When I say, “I hope so,” I actually mean, “This is unattainable.”
When I say, “I hope so,” I actually mean, “Gosh, this would really be nice, but I don’t expect it to actually happen.”
And honestly, I almost never expect it to actually happen.
Hope is calling out blessings with confidence before they happen, and I’m so afraid of being wrong that I doubt. So every time I say the word “hope,” it’s sprinkled with the dust of my own insecurities.
This lazy, ironic usage has robbed the word of its true power for me. My doubt has rendered hope impotent.
I’ve been using “hope” as a throwaway word, and that needs to change.
When I think about instances where I actually experience hope, I think about foster care. Foster care is all about hope. (My daughter’s first name means hope, and when we adopted her, she chose Hope as a new middle name.) When I see the kids we’ve fostered navigating the challenges of adulthood in ways that make me proud, I have hope.
When we can look back on past successes, that gives us hope. It is easier to have hope in retrospect, but that’s not what hope is for.
Hope is for now.
Hope is present condition regarding a future desire. It’s about something we don’t have yet, and waiting for it with patience and confidence. We can look to the past for evidence of hopes fulfilled, but hope isn’t about the past. Hope is about holding on in this moment. Hope is about having faith in possibility. It’s a relentless belief that things will work out, even if they don’t work out in the way you thought they would.
Hope means infinite possibilities…but it often means letting go of the possibilities you imagined.
This has been a sticking point for me. I don’t like the idea of letting go of the possibilities I imagined, especially for my own life. (I have had oh-so-many shattered plans.) And hope requires us to dwell in a place of uncertainty, and that’s just hard. I like plans and order and predictability.
But hope is the plan.
There’s a tradeoff there: I have to exchange my tidy plans for the sprawling, inclusive possibility of hope. Things might not turn out how I imagined, but hope trusts that things will still be good regardless of the outcome.
So this year, I am learning to use the word “hope” with more care. I am learning how to hold hope in this moment. I am learning to dwell in possibility.
It’s uncomfortable and strange, but that’s where the hope lies.
Can I do this?
I hope so.