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Three Strands of a Strong Lifeline

“A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Ecclesiastes 4:12

 

Have you ever watched anyone make a rope? It’s a fairly simple process that’s been around for thousands of years. I’ve never made a rope, but I used to do macramé, mostly for artsy, decorative purposes, so the strength of the woven, braided cord wasn’t an issue. But for a mountain climber, or a sailor, or for anyone crossing a rope bridge, the strength of the twisted strands in a rope is a matter of life and death.

In last week’s post I mentioned that I suspected that the long form of happiness (an ongoing, low-level hum of joy, general contentment, the sense of wellbeing and settled-ness that buoys the spirit) is created by faith, hope, and love braided together. There are other factors, of course, but these three entwined form a strong support system for life. Here are the three, with an emphasis on hope (because I’ve touched on faith and love previously).

Faith is an act of giving ourselves to what will creatively transform us (according to Henry Nelson Wieman, a theologian in the early 1900’s).

Love is an outpouring of kindness, consideration, and respect – and everything good in us.

What about hope? Hope is not Jiminy Cricket’s wish upon a star. No, hope is much more substantial than Disney wishes. Hope is based on trust and leads to action. We wish upon a star and then sigh – if only. We trust that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and we move toward it – that’s hope. We wish everyone would live together in peace. We trust that our loving kindness will make life more peaceful for everyone within our sphere of influence, so we try to be loving and kind – that’s hope.

Sooner or later, everyone’s journey leads to – and through – the mirage that hovers ahead on the road. Most of us hike through mirages several times before life is done, and each time, we find ourselves disillusioned all over again. But the thing about hope is that it recognizes dis-illusionment for what it is: real-izing. Stripping away pretense. Ditching fallacies. Dismantling deception. We may have preferred the mirage to reality, but the mirage was never solid enough to support us. Reality is solid. We can see what we’re facing, we can deal with it, and we can move on.

This is where people who believe in a Higher Power have an advantage. There’s a limit to trusting only human nature when it comes to creating a better, healthier life and a more just and peaceful world. Scan the headlines in the news, take a quick look at a Twitter feed, dive into comments on blog posts, or listen to friends pour out their workplace woes, and it doesn’t take long to see the sludgy side of human nature.

To have hope, we somehow have to transcend all that. Maybe some people can transcend through their own internal fortitude and positive thinking. I’m not that strong internally – not consistently anyway. As for positive thinking, I try, but on my own, I’m a roller coaster of thoughts and emotions. I need a rope to hold onto in order to stay out of the suck and pull of the sludge.

Enter God. The Transcendent One. Faith in person. Love incarnate. Hope indestructible. I am the variable and God is the constant. When I am faithless, God is faithful. When I am unloving and unlovable, God continues to love. When I lose hope, God remains steady and solid and does not abandon me. Even when I feel that all is lost, all is never lost.

Many years ago, when I was first married, my husband traveled as a backup musician. One time after a gig in Canada, he and the road manager were driving the equipment truck back to L.A. when they realized that they were almost out of gas. Unfortunately, on that particular stretch of highway, exits were few and far between. What’s more, they were weary and had hours yet to drive. This was before the days of cell phones, so help was not just a text away. Their spirits sank at the thought of being stuck in the middle of nowhere for who-knew-how-long. But as the road manager eyed the gas gauge, he noticed a switch – to an auxiliary gas tank. With a simple click, the extra fuel kicked in, and seconds later, the gauge swung from E to F.

That’s what it’s like to believe in a Higher Power. When I’m running on empty, extra fuel is available. Always. G.K. Chesterton said, “[T]he only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point – and does not break.” In my experience, that can happen only when there’s a tank held in reserve, a limitless supply of divine strength and wisdom. This holds true not only for courage but also for every value we need for integrity, balance, and a firm footing in our life journey. The soul passes the point of despair but remains hopeful. The soul passes the point of hatred but responds in love. The soul passes the point of vengeance but holds out grace. Because “in God we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

The converse is true as well: In me, God lives and moves and has sacred being. Marvelous, isn’t it? The grand Mystery, the Divine Being, exists within us. I have hope, because I trust in the divine spark in us all, the divine connection among us all, and the divine Presence transcending us all. I believe in possibilities. Good possibilities. God possibilities. And I have every reason to believe that they are not illusions.

 

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Text © 2017 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

Photos courtesy pexels.com.

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