Friday, December 2, 2011

A Quiet Hope: Hard Won Hope

This post is the fourth guest post in "A Quiet Hope," which is the first week of our season-long series called A Quiet Advent.

About the author: Melissa Anne Wuske (melissaannewuske.com) is a freelance writer and editor in Cincinnati. She's also the introverted wife of an extroverted youth minister.

Kathy's been teaching me about hope for years. She's a few decades older than many of the women in our Bible study, so she quickly became our unofficial matriarch. Her voice always reassures us when we were lost in the uncertainty of bad bosses, singleness, and starting families. She tells us assuredly, over and over—"God is using your lives."

Over time she's become more to me than just our group's mom. We're friends. We share hope together. As I dated and married my husband and she watched he children take hold of godly adult lives, we've marveled together at God's work. Through our doubts and frustrations, she shows me how to look ahead with hope. Without fail, she senses my weary weeks, when I would've rather stayed home from church. She can see through the facade I put up—and she simply offers me a hug.

Kathy's hope has taken a quieter, more urgent turn this year. She's been battling brain cancer that has taken away much of her sight and hearing, and at times, her ability to walk. In her sensory deprived world, she seeks the coming of Christ with an earnestness that astounds me.

She's braved radiation, chemo, numerous hospital stays, and every X-months-to-live ultimatum doctors could throw at her. She is always smiling—always. For a while she was in a nursing home bearing burdensome weeks of rehabilitation, but every time I visited she managed to cheer me up, asking about my life and what she could pray about for me—"I have lots of time to pray." My mom even walked in one day to find her reading her large print Bible one word at a time with a magnifying glass. Even now, back at home, her vision and hearing won't allow her to identify people coming into the room, but she just smiles, waves, and says hi when they walk in.

She speaks boldly about her future. She's talks about days post-chemo when she'll go to her daughter's and son's weddings next summer. She's eager for the day when she'll be well enough to go back to work. She speaks even more brazenly of the power of her God. I know few people who are as sure as Kathy is that their prayers are heard. She trusts unwaveringly in God's healing power. She's sure of God's work here on earth and she's even more sure of his power in the next life. Sometimes my instinct is to temper her hope, to tell her it's okay not to fight so hard, but who am I to try to rob her of her drive, to tell her that her Christ-rooted hope is just too audacious. (I don't think it'd be possible anyway.)

Her brand of quiet yet intense hope speaks to my introverted way of seeking Christ. She reminds me of my dependence, even when I try to choose isolation. My need for others should increase my hope in Christ instead of causing me to mourn the loss of my independence.  She teaches me that quiet time alone is a resource that can bear a harvest, not just a delicacy to be relished. She shows me the grit and vulnerability necessary to live by hope.

Her hope resonates with the Christmas story, too. The hope of this season isn't a fluffy hope. While its end is a savior born and a people redeemed, there are days and years of desert between here and heaven. The hope felt by generations of Israelites waiting for the Christ wasn't a light, airy feeling. It was the force shoving them forward each step through the desert sand—a determined trudge toward the full knowledge of Christ.

It's a heavy lesson, no doubt, but it's refreshing to me because I'm not one who often feels a frolicking-through-the-daisies hope, but I know the tired, questioning, one-foot-in-front-of-the other kind of hope. Most days, if I'm honest, I'm fighting a feeling of dark unknowing, crowded with fear. I'm trying to figure out how to take just the next step in a deliberate walk toward the promised light. Kathy shows me how.

Last week Kathy was given another prediction from the doctors: two more weeks. While her body struggles, her heart quietly waits for Christ's coming, either in her healing or her homecoming.