15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…
1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)
The Christmas season is bittersweet for me. It is a time when I remember my mother’s death. It has also become the most anticipated part of the year for me. This latter aspect was not always so. In December 2007, shortly after my mother died, I returned home to an empty apartment. As a result of circumstances of my own making, I was living alone. I felt significant despair. I felt so alone and despondent. The loss of my mother, who had become a significant confidant, in addition to my circumstances living by myself combined to sink me into a depressed state. Gone was the seasonal excitement associated with bygone Christmases. Instead, I was overwhelmed by feelings of loneliness, dread and annoyance. I associated annoyance with all the excitement that surrounded me in public spaces, of which I had partaken in the past, but that was not part of my existence anymore. I had accepted Christ into my life 14 years prior and this experience was not what I envisioned for myself in my mind’s eye at the time of my conversion.
I recently reflected on this period in my life as I was reviewing my 2023 gratitude journal. Even though I had visited an emotional nadir in 2007, I see how the established relationship I had with Christ caused hope to not depart from me. Here is what the apostle Peter says about this hope:
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…(1 Peter 1:3, NIV)
And that is the only way I can describe this hope. It is living, apart from me, not requiring any energy from me to fuel it. I contrast this hope to how I described being hopeful, prior to my conversion. Hopefulness was always associated with some future event or effort that would result in a positive outcome of which I had great anticipation for. As a young man I learned to internalize an internal locus of control that collaborated with external realities to produce successful outcomes that were to my benefit. This mindset would drive me to achieve so that I could exercise the highest level of control possible over external events and parties. This mindset followed me into my relationship with Christ. In 2007, I came to the end of myself, realizing that I could no longer take responsibility for creating my own hope…and as I relinquished the last strings of control, the living hope that had germinated in me, 14 years prior sprung to life and has never left me.
Since 2007 I have faced multiple crises. I have surmounted great heights. I have been divorced. I have remarried. I have confronted my devastating compulsions. I have overcome them. I have experienced deep disappointment. I have experienced tremendous success. I have encountered painful betrayal. I have been embraced through deep friendship. I have been shattered. I have experienced wonderful surprises. I have lost. I have gained. At points of agony and bliss, the constancy and presence of this living hope has not let go of me. It is a hope that is resident in my spirit and connects itself to my body and soul. It is a hope that is only explicable through the telling of my story – the impossibilities that became possible; the craters that became creations; the messes that became masterpieces.
This hope has a name – Jesus! Do you know this Jesus?