The Incarnation of Hope Thoughts on Henri Nouwen's, Our Greatest Gift: Meditations on Dying and Caring

Last night I dreamed I was pregnant.  I’ve dreamt it before so I know better than to give it too much heed. After all, most dreams really don’t come true and it’s a good thing or I would be perpetually showing up for exams that I hadn’t studied for and failing out of college.  Still I couldn’t resist the urge to linger over the idea for a few minutes.  I closed my eyes and let my head fall back into the pillow, my mind was quick to create images of muslin blankets and tiny diapers. What a celebration a new baby would be for us and for my daughter whose only sibling is an imaginary friend.  No matter how many times I set my mind on contentment, nay, no matter how content I truly am, I can not help but let hope whisk me off into a world of unrealized dreams. Hope, it seems, is irresistible.

I thought next of my friend who lost her father this year, another whose husband left her, another who miscarried recently. I wondered if they too let their minds wander.  If maybe all of us, in the vulnerable moments of sacred quiet when the lines between truth and fantasy are blurred by sleepy heads, if all of our dreams attempt to overtake us.

This month we read Our Greatest Gift: Meditations on Dying and Caring, in the Liturgy of Life Reading Group.  Henri Nouwen’s gentle questioning got me thinking that perhaps these irrepressible hopes are the very whisper of God to us.  Perhaps they are inescapable because He is all encompassing and in our hopes He speaks to us of His Kingdom.

Christians are fools there is no denying that. We are a people founded in mystery.  Our story begins with a talking snake and climaxes with a virgin giving birth.  We dare to call the undeniable existence of death nothing but a lie.  For us the brutality our last breath is our entryway to eternal glory.

We believe in the Incarnation of Hope.

So when hope rises in our hearts, we should not be ashamed.  We need not bury our longings for our parents to be reconciled in their marriages or for our dead children to come back to us.  The never ending “what if’s” and “if only’s” need not haunt us.  We are called to grieve for the brokenness of the world, indeed we are called to be broken. If you are like me tonight, your head weary on a pillow damp with tears, if it feels like hope is tearing you apart, know at least this, you are not alone and your dreams are not in vain. Out of our bleeding wounds we call forth life. We live for Resurrection.

 

 

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Human Wickedness and the Hope of Resurrection Thoughts on C.S. Lewis and The Problem of Pain

The Problem of Pain Chapter 4, Human Wickedness. C.S. Lewis. The Liturgy of Life Reading Group

 

If you have been in the Christian world for any time at all you have probably come across one of these. You may have even handed them out or stuffed them under doors or into envelopes hoping that somehow the message of God’s love would reach someone who needed to hear it.

 

Right now in the Liturgy of Life Reading Group we are on chapter 4 of C.S. Lewis’, The Problem of Pain. In this chapter Lewis makes a valiant case for human wickedness.  He describes our innate feelings of inadequacy and our tendency to rationalize our shame, after all I’m not any worse than she is right?

The Problem of Pain Chapter 4, Human Wickedness. C.S. Lewis. The Liturgy of Life Reading Group

Honestly, I don’t need Lewis to convince me of my wickedness, the dark memories that rush over me on sleepless nights and the unmentionable thoughts that flash into my mind even today are enough.

 

But our post-modern nation has lost interest in the notion of sin and I’m afraid even Lewis’ plea for us to regain it is not going to gain much popularity. In today’s culture an emphasis on this aspect of our faith results in us blindly pointing fingers at our family and friends, calling them sinners and them, for good reason, pointing back calling us fools. In a world without standards a sin is only a sin if you believe it to be.

 

In Christian evangelism our first failure is to assume that the life of another person is spiritually dead.  Despite the normalization of secularism in our culture there remains a Living Spirit in all of us.  Many who know or care nothing for the love of Christ still consider themselves deeply spiritual and share with the Christian a longing for a life beyond death.

 

We are a people who know the agony of death and who long for resurrection. To share the love of Christ with another soul we must  start by recognizing that in pain we find connection with all humanity. And If we allow it, our suffering will hasten us into the hands of one another and at the same moment into the arms of God.

 

The Problem of Pain Chapter 4, Human Wickedness. C.S. Lewis. The Liturgy of Life Reading Group
A billboard taken from Alpha, a ministry devoted to having open discussions about Christianity with people from a various backgrounds.

 

 

 

This year in the Liturgy of Life reading group we are meditating on ideas of suffering and faith. Please join us in our current book, The Problem of Pain in another week. For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for occasional updates and emails (usually about one per week), like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group.