A Renewed Song // Twenty-Eight

Processed with VSCO with h3 presetMy friend Hannah hates being twenty-seven. She’s a tad OCD and can be weird about odd numbers, and I love her for it. We both agreed turning twenty-seven can be stressful because you exchange your mid-twenties for late. The subject arose because I just left twenty-seven behind. I laugh at Hannah, who has a whole year to walk around annoyed with her odd number. Hannah, dear, I’m happy to report that turning twenty-eight is much less dramatic, at least it was for me. I’m still here, in my late twenties. Still a millennial. Still dreaming. Still fighting for a place, a voice. Still hoping for all sorts of crazy things before I turn thirty.

I reflected hard on my twenty-seventh year. So hard it hurt. I always reflect on each year: reviewing what I’ve learned, looking at ways I’ve changed and grown, naming the difficulties and the graces. And then, naturally, hopes for the coming year begin circling. I push them deep, deep down into my heart. I dare not voice or pen them.

I was on the phone with a friend and, on accident, I think, I’m not sure, it just happened: I hesitantly confessed a hope. Which I recanted quickly, saying, “I know that’s silly…I know that probably won’t happen…that’s totally not worth mentioning.” It’s a hope I can’t do anything about, obnoxious to an executioner like myself (a.k.a. control freak). This hope needs a miracle. So. Miracle here, please Lord? Nevermind, how about you just make this hope fade instead?

{Did I just make a suggestion to God?? That should have been my first red flag.}

“I think you should pray for that exactly. Pray for what is in your heart today,” she said.

“WHAT?? But I don’t know if that’s what God wants for my life,” I protested.

“So.” she said.

“So…” I replied.

“So pray for it anyway.”

“I caaan’t. What if I’m hoping for the wrong thing?,” I asked.

“Pray for it,” she said in confidence. “And watch Him answer it OR watch Him change your desire OR watch Him sustain you through the disappointment.”

My eyes widened. There it was, encapsulated in a mere few sentences: I am afraid to hope. I am afraid to hope for fear of disappointment. {Second red flag: fear.}

I don’t want to live this way.

In a newfound moment of bravery, I went a step further: I penned some hopes that I’ve been hiding in my heart, all the ones I’ve been pretending aren’t there. I looked at my list. “What would it look like to hope for these things?” Enter fear. Insert doubt. Why? Because I might hope for the wrong thing? Because the answer might be no?

I realize many of the things I hope for won’t happen in my twenty-eighth year, some may never happen at all. But I’ve decided to uproot my fear and hope for them anyway. Here’s my anthem: I want to be the kind of twenty-eight year old who is brave enough to hope for crazy things. And you know what? When the disappointment comes, I now know that I’ll be okay. Twenty-seven taught me that. I’ll turn twenty-nine having learned much more, having failed many times over and having grown in my understanding of God’s character as I found the strength to persevere—to hope.

Annie F. Downs, in the introduction of her book Looking for Lovely, writes:

“I used to think hope was a gift from God in it’s singular form—like love, peace, patience, any of the fruits of the Spirit. But hope isn’t a fruit of having a Spirit-filled life. Look at the list in Galatians 5:22-23. No hope mentioned there. What Paul says in Romans, and what you and I know from our lives, is hope is an expensive commodity, not easily won, always fought for…if you want to be full of hope, you have to suffer a bit. You have to find purpose in the suffering so you don’t give up. You have to persevere. And when you persevere, your character, your proven faith and tried integrity, grows. And then hope. Hope arrives.”

This I know: despair is easy. Persevering through to hope? Hard. Paul says of Abraham, “In hope he believed against hope…” (Roman 4:18). Did you know the dictionary has a definition for this phrase? “To hope against hope” is to hope without any basis for expecting fulfillment. I can think of nothing more despairing. How did Abraham do that for so long?

Emily Dickinson says, “Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all…” Maybe hope is a song we sing against all the despairing voices. The bravery, it would seem, lies in not stopping—thus in persevering. I slip into despair at the thought of singing a song forever. That sounds exhausting. How are we to hope like that?  

After a difficult semester in grad school, Hannah asked how I was doing. I paused and looked toward the window. The sky was appropriately grey—bleak and wintry like the waning hope in my soul. “I’m fairly hopeful” I said, with a somewhat shaky voice. What I really meant was: I am choosing to hope, I am trying with the little bit of what’s left inside of me to channel it toward a posture of hope because I know that despair is a dead-end. “Well, I’m hopeful for you,” she said. “I know that’s not reassuring, but I’m confident that God is going to provide for you.” I felt my soul sigh with gratitude. It was reassuring. I couldn’t sing that day and Hannah picked up the tune for me. That’s what friends do, I think. We take turns singing. I know I’ve sung loudly for others when they’ve been unable to sing for themselves. I cannot count how many people have stepped in to sing for me. I wouldn’t be here without them. As of late, I’ve been afraid to sing, I think. But twenty-eight is ever-so-slowly bringing the beat back. I feel it, and I can almost hear it. 


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