People get excited about the new year. I get it.

Who of us does not look forward with expectation and hope. Maybe last year wasn’t great. Even if it was wonderful, the human spirit is drawn to what a new year promises. 

I have never been one to make new year resolutions. I want the zero to sixty-five race to longer days and warmer weather. January through March is a hard time for me. The bleakness of days, and cold snaps mixed with warm weather fronts, at least on the East Coast, is annoying.

So, this year I am thinking about hopenot more to do lists, but what hope means—specifically mystical hope. How being hopeful will affect my relationships with Christ and others. 

Mystical hope, though an utterly esoteric philosophy or form of spirituality that I had not considered until last year, is exactly what I am seeking. Not the hope-filled platitudes. Those are not working for me or satisfying a deeper longing for more—more hope, more yeses, more assurance, more of the Holy Spirit. 

I have come to believe that hope is not tied to outcome. It is a bold statement to opine that hope is not somehow a cause-and-effect way of thinking. Why should one hope if there is no measurable outcome or reward for hoping? Mystical hope breaks rank with a future outcome. Mystical hope beckons me to stay present.

Cynthia Bourgeault states, “When we are rushing ahead into the future or shrinking back into the past, we miss the hand of God, which can only touch us in the now.” She is on to something.

Hope feels like a threshold or thin place for me. In her book Braving the Thin Places, Julianne Stantz describes the thin place as the “wild, messy places where God is at work.” The wild and the messy are the here and now places.

Evidence of hope dwelling in the chaos is not novel—but it feels entirely so. 

1 Kings 19:11 records Elijah standing on a mountain in the entrance of a cave while the winds tear the mountain apart, the earth shakes, and fire roars. But God is not in the terror-raging storm that engulfs the mountain. Rather He is present in a gentle whisper. This intimacy with the Holy One cannot be rivaled. And if I accept the definition of mercy as “the length and breadth and height and depth of what we know of God—and light by which we know it” then mystical hope and mercy co-exist. 

Elijah is the living embodiment of both hope and mercy. Elijah wraps himself in his mantle—a mantle representing the call of the Holy One, while he remains steadfast and fully surrendered, cocooned in the moment. Mercy denotes some kind of exchange or transaction—though not in a future sense. We witness the exchange of chaos and confusion for divine mercy—which itself embodies hope.

God cannot be absent. If mystical hope is the here and now experience with God, and God cannot be absent, then hope must remain ever present. Hope is neither a task nor a test: have enough hope and x,y,z will happen. Hope is the abiding presence of God—His mercy for today. His mercies are new every morning. Hope and mercy move us toward the future, move us deeper—but never in a conditional sense. My to-do list or prayer life or good works are not predicated on the Spirit’s manifestation of hope and mercy. I can simply abide with the Holy One. What a relief. I can rest in Him. I can sabbath in Him. 

Jesus said his yoke is easy. Elijah and I share the glory-garments whose threads of hope and mercy and grace never unravel. That mercy means “a fierce, bonding love—as between committed lovers,” my relationship is knitted to the Spirit, to Christ, tightly, as a three-cord strand, which cannot be severed. My circumstances are no match for this holy-woven bond—which evokes the image of a DNA strand shared with the Creator.

It is hard-holy to talk about hopelessness. The scriptures teach about hope. The Bible asks, “Where does your hope come from?” The answer should be, “from the maker of heaven and earth.” That is amazing and true until one finds oneself devoid of a relationship with the maker of heaven and earth.

The Bible challenges believers to always be ready to give an answer for their hope. What if we cannot think of anything?

Mystical hope invites me to look beyond the conventional meaning of hope and be open to “a reality that is neither apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence.” Another way to look at mystical hope is as “atemporal—that is out(side) of time.” Mystical hope enmeshed in a field of energy drawing me to the center of the Divine Creator. Can such a force be resisted? And to what end does the Holy One inhabit this cosmic force? Musician David Crowder writes:

He is jealous for me – Loves like a hurricane, I am the tree – Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy…

When all of the sudden I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory – And I realize just how beautiful You are – And how great your affections are for me

I remember last year floating in the pool at my son’s house. I have been a pool-floater all my life. But this time, I surrendered my entire body to a horizontal position. My ears were submerged, and warm, placid water encircled the majority of my face. My body was relaxed as my arms and legs dangled just below the surface of the water. Embracing mystical hope is like this full-body, surrender-floating. The permission to embrace something new and explore new ways of being can be fabulous albeit tentative. The surface matters because that is the place of greatest exposure. However, the deep waters hold all the mystery. 

Restoration of Hope

No matter how you are  emotionally, mentally, and physically, invite hope into your life.

Allow hope to enter into your mind.

Allow hope to enter into your spirit.

Allow hope to enter into your body.

 Allow yourself to be filled with hope.

Imagine the Spirit stirring up newness, finding the dead places that exist within you, and creating a meadow of flowers there.

Let hope fill your mind with purpose and direction.

Let hope fill your spirit with life and enthusiasm.

Let hope fill your heart and draw you into renewed love today.

Today: I rest in a sense of restored hope.

Joyce Rupp

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