By Rev. Jim Innes
Whenever I fall into any wounded thinking patterns, I cannot find my way out until I return to Hope.
Until such time, I endure the slow drift of cloud that blocks the sun's warm embrace. It is often a painfully sad wait. And, at times, my mind is shrouded by an increasingly cold shadow.
As I ponder this sense of Hope, what pops to my mind is the phrase "Hope springs eternal." It was coined by the poet Alexander Pope (1732). It speaks to his sense of how men and women keep on hoping despite circumstance. He believes it is a Hope grounded in an innate sense of a future walk in glory.
"What future bliss, he gives not thee to know,
But gives that Hope to be thy blessing now."
Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always to be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
('An Essay on Man')
I am delightfully captivated by his inferences to the almighty power of God that moves us towards what St. Paul would call "something greater than we ask or imagine."
In fact, the entirety of Pope's Epistle (from which this verse was taken) speaks to future glory. It infers that we are organized into some more extensive plans. That we are but a tiny part of an incomprehensibly complex universe. Everything that happens, happens for a reason. And in that reason, God has a specific purpose for every element of the created order.
Despite this idea containing a nasty fatalism (which exemplifies Pope's times), it provokes warm thoughts of a supreme power that holds my life in some graced-filled purpose. And, such power has been, and always will be, embracing me in ways that are both seen and unseen.
Yet, I am afraid that Pope may find such sentiment can drift into pride. Because to think that God's general plan has 'Me' specifically in mind is bordering on unrestrained ego.
Ask for what end the heav'nly bodies shine,
Earth for whose use? Pride answers," 'Tis for mine:
For me kind Nature wakes her genial pow'r,…
For me, health gushes from a thousand springs;
Seas roll to waft me, suns to light me rise;
My foot-stool earth, my canopy the skies."…
"No, ('tis replied) the first Almighty Cause
Acts not by partial, but by gen'ral laws;
(Epistle 1, section 5)
I must admit there is enough truth in this 'verse to pull me up short. Its caution is a wind gust of humility that takes my breath away.
Too often, Hope is conditional on circumstances going our way. When the truth is, I would argue, Hope is a source of power unto itself…unconditional. And I thank God for that!
Nonetheless, as I see it, humility ought not to distract us from the notion that we are created as significant parts of the greater whole. Ego or not, we are essential. And Pope had an excellent grasp of the systemic importance of each element (humans included) dancing together in some harmonious unity.
So, in Hope and towards Hope, let me end with the final verse in Pope's first Epistle.
“All nature is but art, unknown to thee;
All chance, direction, which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony, not understood;
All partial evil, universal good:
And, spite of pride, in erring reason's spite,
One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right.”
Rev. Jim Innes is the rector of the Regional Ministry of South Huron.