With all this talk about wildernesses and wanderings, turmoil and temptations, drought and devastation, it is hard to imagine hope. But the whole point of this journey of faith is not some sort of perverse satisfaction in denying ourselves or in the morbidity of suffering in the wildernesses of our lives. The point of it all is the promise of life that we have been given and for which we hope. When we venture into a wilderness, it is not limited to morose sadness and despair. There is so much more to life than that! The Scriptures are full of wildernesses. Some of them are deep and foreboding, some are long and difficult journeys, and some are little more than an unwelcome inconvenience. But always, always, in Scripture they are a way to somewhere else–parting seas, burning bushes that encounter the holy, or wrestling dreams. They all lead home. Beyond the wilderness, on the other side, just over the mountain or just through the trees, is the light, the newly-created dawn. We just have to imagine it for now.
Maybe that’s what faith is about–imagining the dawn, imagining hope. After all, if it were clear and always present, we would need no faith. But even on a clear day, the way is murky and often wrought with danger. So as we travel, we are called to imagine what is beyond, to imagine what we have yet to see. It’s the way we find joy in suffering and and hope in despair, not by taking morose satisfaction in our dilemma but in learning to look toward something that we do not see. There is always something more. So when you find yourself in a wilderness of pessimism or hopeless, a wilderness in which you just can’t seem to find the way, a wilderness where every turn provides yet another obstacle or yet another challenge or yet another temptation for which you were not prepared, close your eyes and imagine hope.
Think about it. If you get in your car to drive somewhere don’t you have at least some semblance of where your are going? Haven’t you sort of imagined what is up ahead? Why should our faith journey be that much different? Not that we’re trying to get to a physical destination but rather to a place on the journey where the promise of life is so profoundly evident that we do nothing else but imagine what’s up ahead. And in our imagination of hope is found life. Imagining hope brings freedom and joy and strength for the journey.
To be honest, it is this Lenten wilderness that takes us through the desolation of the cross and Golgotha that teaches us hope. To believe in the cross is to believe that there is something else beyond it. To live this Way of Christ is to imagine hope.
Hope looks ahead for that which is not yet. (Henri Nouwen, in Seeds of Hope)