They lie to you about hope. They whisper in your ear that if you don’t get your hopes up, it won’t hurt if that longed-for thing doesn’t come to pass. Keep your expectations low, they say, so the fall won’t be so steep. Don’t get too attached. Muffle your dreams under layers of bubble wrap. This is the only way to venture into the future and come out unscathed.
But according to a reliable source, hope is one of only three things that remain in the end, after everything else falls away. If I’m understanding that right, it means that hope lives on into eternity, even after the thing we’re hoping for has passed away. If that’s the case, maybe I shouldn’t be too quick to brush it off.
“It looks like you’re miscarrying,” the doctor told me, not unkindly. It was the height of the pandemic, and we were both wearing masks. I regretted putting on mascara, but it felt like a special occasion, seeing as it was the first time I’d left the house in approximately six weeks. The doctor awkwardly handed me a tissue, trying not to make contact.
“Come back in two weeks for another ultrasound to confirm.”
Back in the car, I regretted (even more than the mascara) the fact that Daniel couldn’t be there with me. We’d initially wanted him there so he could see the baby’s tiny profile on the screen and watch the pulsing heartbeat. But now I wished he could drive me home, because they haven’t yet invented windshield wipers for the human eye.
I didn’t enter this corridor of hope blithely. I’ve had my share of ultrasounds that resulted in smudged mascara: one with dire conjectures about our baby’s future and one that resulted in the dreaded silence of a no-longer-beating heart.
In those two agonizing weeks between ultrasounds, I wondered how to pray, how to put one foot in front of the other, how to breathe. I wasn’t sure it was possible to hope, and if so, whether it was wise. If I cracked open the door to hope, wouldn’t it just be an invitation for my heart to get steamrolled in two weeks?
I whispered these fears to Daniel after Graham was safely tucked in bed. I know he was just as scared as I was, but he offered words of bedrock wisdom, words I clung to every day of those two eternal weeks: “We will choose hope until God gives us a reason not to.”
Hope, I believe, is never wasted. Every time we hope, even if the hope is just a tiny quivering thing, we are building our hope muscle. Even if the thing we’re hoping for doesn’t become reality, the very act of hoping changes something at the core of who we are.
And if the foundation of our hope is ultimately in Someone rather than something, we will never be disappointed. Whether we get the thing we’re hoping for or not.
Faith is both the dreaming and the crying. Faith is the assurance that the best and holiest dream is true after all.Frederick Buechner
At my appointment two weeks later, I walked into the same ultrasound room, with the same mask on, and was greeted by the same technician. I could hardly bear to look at the screen, knowing in a matter of moments it would announce either life or death, hope or grief. I didn’t want to know, and I had to know.
Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. My eyes flew open at the unmistakable sound of a tiny heart pumping at 160 beats per minute. “Is that what I think it is?” I whispered.
Sure enough, flickering on the screen was hope incarnate, hope pulsing inside my own body. I hadn’t worn mascara because I anticipated tears that day. I just hadn’t guessed that they would be tears of joy, tears of a hope fulfilled.
Now, by some undeserved miracle, Daniel, Graham, and I are waiting for our new arrival, due at the end of year. And the nickname we’ve given this little one?
I know that hope is the hardest love we carry.Jane Hirschfield