“For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” –Romans 8:24-25
A few months ago I began prepping a sermon on Romans 8, focusing on the two verses that come after these ones. In fact, the part that comes next, about how “when we do not know how to pray, the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26), is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. I love silent prayer and contemplation, and so I began scribbling down all sorts of ideas as I was brainstorming to preach. I don’t even remember what I wrote down at the time, but one of the ideas was something like, “God dares us to hope again after loss, pain, and fear.”
I put my notebook away, and I went onto write the sermon a day or so later, preach it, and presumably move on.
But still, that message about hope was calling me.
In fact, months later, I’m still thinking about it. What that passage and my reflections on hope began to reveal to me is that faithfulness in this season of life, especially with Lucia, has often involved letting go of our expectations in order to love her as she is and celebrate her life. This has been such a good and Godly way of learning to love, and especially when we’ve often stood in the balance of not knowing when the next crisis will strike or when we may need to let go, it’s been a powerful and fruitful way to live.
But I also realize now that as we’d let go of expectations and fully embraced the uncertainty of our lives together, we’d not been particularly welcome or wont to hope.
Indeed, a few months ago, another parent said something casual to me like, “I’m just so looking forward to when she can do X…” Yet another chirped, “Don’t you just look forward to each stage?” The statements were remarkable because I realized, not mournfully or proudly, but simply and practically, that I certainly didn’t have the same hopes for Lucia.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t have hopes.
Something has shifted over the past few months for me. Perhaps it’s because Lucia’s joy–her smiles, her giggles, are so contagious that we can’t help but want for more. Perhaps it is because we’ve begun to realize that there’s a certain faithfulness (where perhaps we once thought it mere naiveté or denial) to believing and looking forward and wanting more for your child even when the future (gosh, everyone’s future!) is always uncertain. “Who hopes for what is seen?” Paul asks, and it dawns on me that all hope is outrageous and audacious and almost senseless. It dawns on me that true hope, hope despite fear, loss, and pain, is the most outrageous of them all, but deeply, wildly, and decidedly faithful.
What’s striking to me in this season is that even as Lucia’s daily health challenges continue, I think God is inviting us to dream a bit, to hope a lot, to envision a great and glorious and good life, even if it’s completely uncertain, for our daughter with special needs.
This is a huge shift for me…and it’s a little scary.
And it’s not the sermon I preached that Sunday. In fact, to this day, I don’t know how God did that–helped me write a sermon for others even as God prepared a sermon just for me. And I am wary, as I always am, too pensive and critical, because hope for many often takes the shape of bi-ped hubris, therapeutic progress, or medical cures for Lucia, and I feel distinctly called to inhabit this tension of living and loving her now, and yet loving and hoping for her tomorrow, too.
So I find hope in the home we are making for Lucia, in the thought of her making friends at school someday, touching so many lives as she does ours everyday, teaching others, reaching out for babies and friends and strangers, and having many more swims and smiles and heroic turns of her head toward the things and the people that she wants and cares for! These are my small, perhaps tentative, but genuine, prayerful, and faithful hopes for my daughter.
We will always savor the present, but we find new hope in the future with God’s help.