A bit over a year ago, after some begging and pleading by Sam, a little blonde Labrador joined the family. He was given the name Trigger and true to form he stays cocked and ready and is only a short impulse from exploding into acts of total depravity at any moment, day or night. No shoe or porch screen or Posturepedic dog bed is safe from his curious teeth and for all the times his wake of destruction should have earned him swift punishment we’ve only adored him more.
By we, I do not mean Luke. Or Sydney. Or Sawyer and Elijah.
Yes, Trigger is a very bad puppy, but he has redeeming qualities the best of which is his eternal optimism. He’s a hopeful boy completely oblivious to pandemics or politics and in return for being one of the objects of his deepest affection, I do my best to make time for his invitations to play.
Because he does invite you to play. Rattle a doorknob or open a car door and he springs into action searching for an object to bring to the game of fetch he is certain is about to commence. His current favorite is a rubber dumb bell. Appropriate. But he will also bring a tin can or a 3 inch stick if that’s all he can muster. If you throw his toy du jour 30 times, he’ll return it 31 and even having done your duty, you can’t stay the guilt that comes when it’s time to call it quits. Could you say no to this face?
Hopefulness. What is it exactly? I think it can be summed up as confidence in the future or anticipating a successful outcome. Why is Trig triggered by his humans? Because relying on experience, he’s got a strong feeling the return on investment will be high. Also note that he doesn’t offer to interact with cars or chairs or the water hose. (I take that back about the water hose. He destroyed it, too, but it laid there, not participating nor appreciating the violence done to it.) No, Bob, he’s only got eyes for his people because they are safe and they return the love. Most of the time.
2020 has had its ill effects and other than the obvious loss of life to those who’ve perished from COVID, I’d suggest hopelessness as a close second. Zero confidence in the future and assurance of unsuccessful outcomes is the sub-context of practically every television broadcast, social media post, conversation. Why are we so pessimistic? Easy. We’ve exchanged the object our hopefulness from One who has never nor will ever disappoint His children to man, his human institutions, and the terrifying idealisms he espouses. No wonder we are depressed.
I don’t think I’m alone when I say it has been work to plug my ears from the noise of a nation crying out for hope from those who are in no position to give it any more than a tree can play fetch with a dog. It’s been hard to block it out and difficult to remember whose I am and resist the temptation to join. Though it guts me to see people seeking salvation from government, I understand it when those demanding justice do not have a relationship with the God who made them. If they understood what justice really entails, they wouldn’t be so quick to insist upon it because justice is both societal and personal, providing for the right and punishing the wrong.
For those who do know Jesus, let’s not be swept away with the tide of overcorrections, being tossed to and fro from one swing of the pendulum to the other. James says those people are double-minded and unstable. (1:8) In the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, we are to shine like stars and above all, keep our chin up.
How does a person remain optimistic? It may be easier to identify things that are certain to kill it every time:
- Obsession with secular social media. Does that mean we shouldn’t inform ourselves? Of course not. But for every minute of news gift yourself with five of scripture to put it in perspective. Otherwise you’ll lose your mind. The end.
- Unproductive arguing with people who do not share a common hope in Jesus. Do We the People have a voice in government, and should we exercise that blood-bought right? As US citizens, yes. As citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, should we pursue the things that make for peace and use our blood-bought privilege to use our words to draw people in to the same hope we have? Double yes. There’s a time for shaking the dust off but not before you’ve presented the opportunity for reconciliation with God first. We are great at skipping the first part.
- Hand-wringing over the policies of man and their effects. Are many of those policies completely contrary to God’s commands? Absolutely. Will there be economic fall-out? Depends on who you ask. But God not only knew these times would come upon us but appointed us to endure them in confidence, not terror. In the profound words of Luke McKay, it is what it is. How are we going to leverage the opportunity before us to exercise our gifts in greater measure than ever before?
I stated in my last writing (two in one week’s time!) that God has been compelling me to repent and rethink and return to former things in new ways. Maybe I didn’t say that exactly but it was under the surface. That can’t be done without faith in One who has the energy to remain engaged with me no matter how many times I come and go.
More than ever, pandemic or not, unified country or not, like a certain very bad dog, I am hopeful.