Hope For a New Year

Li Yao's Baptism

I just finished reading the editorial pages in this last Sunday of 2018’s New York Times. The editorials grouped under the title “Hope Isn’t Only About the Future” renewed a sputtering flame of creative writing inside me (other than sermon-writing and other writing for church work).

2018 was a hard year. I lost some heart and soul in 2018. I wanted to run away and find the lost pieces or some new pieces to replace what I’d lost. Simply leave everything behind and find the lost sheep. I know in some parable or another Jesus talks about leaving the 99 sheep behind and searching for the lost one. But, it’s hard for me to run away, I mean really run. How can I leave a flock, my family, all of the care of the day-to-day?

It’s not new for me, this hopelessness at the urge to run and leave everything behind and not being able to. It feels like an erasure of hope, an imprisonment, eating away at my heart and soul. “I feel as though I’m pushing a huge boulder up a mountain,” I said to my counselor.

“What would happen if you stopped pushing and let the boulder go?” she asked.

“What!” “It would crush me,” I said. (Knowing as I said it, that pieces of my heart and soul are already crushed by all the work of pushing and pulling, straining and …)

“Not if you got out of the way quickly enough.”

That’s what I want. To let go and get out of the way. My fear that the big boulder will crush me as it comes smashing down the mountain overriding any trust in my own ability to get out of the way, to move! Maybe this is what Jesus was talking about in his parable about the lost sheep. Let the 99 go. They have their leaders, you’ve been with them, you’ve taught them. Go and find the lost soul, the lost heart, the one who is wandering, lost, despairing. If that’s you, then go, move, find you, with all the courage and generosity and openness you can muster. Go, find your lost hope and soul, and when you’ve found it, return to the 99 with a celebration, because the one who was lost is found. Gratitude arises. Hope arises. Pieces are replaced.

One of the stories from 2018 I’m most grateful to have “found” is this one, told to me by Li Yao, in a New Member’s class before her baptism (retold at her baptism):

In 2006 just before Christmas in Macau, I was in the main square area close to Senado building, which was a church at one time and now Museum of the Holy House of Mercy. A red bag fell down in front of me in this big crowd, maybe from a window above, 2nd or 3rd floor, and it had a Bible and 2 DVDs with some stories about the Bible. After checking the bag and looking up, all windows above me were closed. This was a very pleasant surprise. I had been looking for a Bible of my own for years, had borrowed one from my sister Ping, but now I have my own Bible.

That is a story to celebrate! A story of lost to found again. A story of hope for 2019.

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