I heard today that a dear friend’s mother died. And I can’t hear that sort of news without asking myself questions that should never be asked by anyone. Questions like, “How will I find out that my mom is dead?” “Will someone contact me if she gets very sick?” “What does she even look like now?” “Is she happy?” “Does she ever miss me?”
I can’t hear that sort of news without welling up with tears, both in empathy for my friend and in gut wrenching pain for my own little girl self.
I can’t hear that sort of news without recalling the last time I saw my mother. That endless November night in 2000 when all of America was glued to the television–hanging on with bated breath and blaming hanging chads. Somehow the 5 weeks in which we didn’t have a President-elect stretched into 15 years of not having a mom. With no Supreme Court ruling. No way to appeal. No vote to cast.
She just decided I was wrong. Decided I was broken. Flawed. Unlovable. Unnecessary. Maybe even so deviant that I was dangerous to be around. So she left me. Left her grandbabies. Left her son-in-law and his huge storehouse of patience for her quirks and idiosyncrasies. Then she left her church. Left her city. Left her friends. I honestly don’t know what she has left.
Yet somehow, there is this thing called Hope. I don’t really ask for it. I don’t even really trust it. I don’t drum it up or think I’m a better person for having it. It just sticks to me like rubber cement. And through my tears it says, “This isn’t the end of the story. Keep on loving her.” To which I reply. “I do. I desperately love her.”
My mom was an abused kid of an alcoholic father. She helped raise her siblings, and when a strange cult promised her structure and rules and rigid parameters, why wouldn’t she turn toward it for safe keeping? Of course she would. She would then spend the rest of her life worried about whether or not to wear make-up, whether the sun had set a couple minutes before she was done sweeping the kitchen on a Friday night, or if there were any crumbs hidden away in a clothing box in the top of the closet before the Festival of Unleavened Bread. She worried whether or not my dad was having an affair every time he spoke to another woman. She wouldn’t even allow me to talk to teens in my own youth group because they weren’t “good enough” in their behavior.
But she did everything she could to make sure my sister’s and my childhood was different from hers. She didn’t drink to excess. She drove us with dedication and diligence to every dance lesson and recital. She bought us a piano and would travel immense distances to make sure we were studying with the best. She gave me more practice SAT tests than I thought existed on the planet, and she sat on the sidelines screaming her fool head off at every single swim meet of the summer. She even taught us Israeli folk dancing during her Zionist phase. Under her I blossomed into a talented piano player, a decent swimmer and an excellent student. Her whole life was about her two girls. We were safe. We were supported. We were “good.”
Until we weren’t good. And that’s when she disappeared.
But hope didn’t leave with her.
Hope. That feeling of expectation. That sense of breathless waiting. For 15 years I have daydreamed about what the moment will be like when I see her again. To hug her. To feel her arms around me. To tell her that I love her. That I’m so angry at her. That I forgive her immediately and I just want to sit on a couch for 72 straight hours to show her home video and scrapbooks of her two incredibly awesome grandkids. One whom she has never even laid eyes on.
Hope. I didn’t ask for it. I don’t fight for it. But somehow, it fights for me. And that is the great mystery of my faith. What seems to make logical sense is bitterness. Resignation. Even an occasional middle finger. But what happens is tears, memories, daydreams and hope. And hope. And then more hope.
And that is how I know there is a God, because I could not create that on my own. I could not drum up forgiveness. I could not manufacture eager expectation. I could not generate hope in this hopeless place of betrayal and abandonment. It is a gift, and it comes from beyond this earth.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5
Hope springs from an eternal place. It flows from an eternal river. It gives me unprecedented joy, unrelenting faith, and enduring commitment. And I will always be grateful that the One who stole my heart–who filled my soul with laughter and turned my mourning into dancing–has seen fit to gift me with her presence.
Hope. I love you. And I will hold you close until the day of restoration comes.
And it will come.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
******Hope is our theme this month. Click here to read my dear friend Susan’s thoughts on The Problem of Hope.