"Hope for the best, but expect the worst.”
I became aware of this phrase in junior high school and was immediately drawn to the duality of it. My awkward, insecure teenage self fought the voices that always told me how I would fail, or how the world would mock and taunt me; but the optimistic, hopeful side of me could envision joy, happiness, and success. This phrase became a mantra for me, and I would find it running through my head throughout adolescence and into adulthood as I faced challenges or opportunities - SATs, telling a crush how I felt, going in for a job interview, auditioning for a show.
As a slightly older adult, I began to feel that the phrase really parsed out a little differently: set your expectations low and they’ll almost always be exceeded. Hope is fine, hope is nice, but what you really need to do is assume things will be terrible so you won’t be as disappointed or depressed when that becomes the reality. Hope was slowly working its way out of the equation. It didn’t sound as pleasant, but I chalked it up to the wisdom and experience of adulthood.
No matter what the outcome, a week from now there will be both joy and despair throughout the country. Perhaps never has there been an election that felt so much like an existential event. And this year - when the country has seen a pandemic and the resultant personal and economic upheavals, the rising voices against social injustice and the backlash against those voices, and decisions and legislation that feels like threats against the ideals and people we worry are already marginalized and threatened - it can be easy to move away from hope and veer towards despair, towards fear.
So at this point I turn to the words of a wise sage: Yoda.
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Now while this is a very cinematic quote, there is, I believe, a simple truth here. Focusing on despair, on fear - this is what causes people to to run to the storm cellar, bar the door, and prepare for the zombie apocalypse. And while it’s one thing to be prepared, to have a plan; if you spend your whole life waiting for the zombies to come, then everyone starts to look like a zombie. And, you’ve spent your whole life in your basement.
How can we all be hopeful on November 4? Can there be hope on the large scale, or should there be hope for the small things? Do we focus on the journey of a thousand miles, or on the few steps we have to take today?
Jeremiah 29:11 says “'for surely I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.’”
And to me, the most important thing I can do with my hope is turn it into action. No matter who is in charge, my decisions and my actions are still my own. And I can use those decisions and actions to shine a light on the darkness, to raise those around me towards the light, to take my steps on the thousand-mile journey.
“We remember before our God your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” -1 Thessalonians 1:3
(don’t forget to vote!)=
Christ the Good Shepherd
Various editorials, articles, and other items of interest.