Greetings, dear ones.
As I sit writing this reflection (many days after it should have been done), I’m aware of sorrow. It’s June 6, the 73rd anniversary of D-Day – and sometimes it seems that we’re no closer to real and lasting peace than we were then. It’s 49 degrees and raining hard, so it doesn’t really feel like June – a reminder that climate change is real and daunting. And there’s a fundamental despair that I hear seeping into conversations and social media postings as we absorb like body blows the repeated news of incompetence and lack of compassion from far too many of the leaders of our nation. Perhaps you feel it, too.
As someone whose mother tongue is that of hope and gratitude, the shadows of this difficult era make me feel out of sorts, as if I’ve lost a key part of myself. At times like these, when I need help to hold on to that hope and to make sense of our situation, I turn to the spiritual giants of many traditions. Recently, I’ve been reading Joanna Macy, a Buddhist scholar, poet, ecologist and Rilke translator who never fails to speak words that bring me back to my hopeful core. She doesn’t mince words or pretend that everything is hunky-dory; she tells it like it is, and in doing so, she reminds me that I am not powerless. When she writes, “The sorrow, grief, and rage you feel is a measure of your humanity and your evolutionary maturity. As your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal,” I feel as if she’s speaking directly to me, as if she understands my need for hope.
Macy even wrote a book explicitly focused on hope (Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re In Without Going Crazy, co-authored by Chris Johnstone). It’s at the top of my to-be-read pile, in part because of these two paragraphs about hope as the antidote to the spiritual emergencies of our times:
“Active Hope is a practice. Like tai chi or gardening, it is something we do rather than have. It is a process we can apply to any situation, and it involves three key steps. First, we take a clear view of reality; second, we identify what we hope for in terms of the direction we’d like things to move in or the values we’d like to see expressed; and third, we take steps to move ourselves or our situation in that direction.
Since Active Hope doesn’t require our optimism, we can apply it even in areas where we feel hopeless. The guiding impetus is intention; we choose what we aim to bring about, act for, or express. Rather than weighing our chances and proceeding only when we feel hopeful, we focus on our intention and let it be our guide.”
There are so many issues that we could choose to focus our intentions on ~ everything from earth wellness to migrant justice, from civil rights issues to economic justice and clean water ~ and as a church and community, we have ongoing opportunities to give of ourselves in these areas and many more. The breadth and depth of need in our world can be overwhelming. Nevertheless, we must persist, practicing active hope, loving the world, and allowing our broken hearts to show us the way back to wholeness.
May our connections to the land and to our neighbors (human and otherwise) nurture and strengthen us all, preparing us to be healers of the world.