Meet Misti, the volcano that represents Arequipa much like the skyline of New York. Among the three that surround the city, Misti draws the most attention, towering at 19,101 feet. What is less clear, however, is that its neighbor, Chachani, is taller, at 19,872 feet, because due to being farther away, it appears shorter. Proximity demands our attention, and things at a distance shrink from view.
My father-in-law, David Smith, died earlier this month. He was hospitalized very suddenly and quickly declined, which resulted in our decision to travel back and be with the family. We rushed into the country and dove headfirst into the situation only days before he passed. To say it has been a shock is putting it far too mildly. Even as we work to navigate the business of losing a family member and redefining life, it has not felt real and somehow all too real at the same time. Needless to say, it dominates our field of vision. It may not be the biggest thing going on in the world, but as the closest, it looms largest for us. Everything else, from minutia to plans to holidays to major crises, recedes into the background.
Hope is a background thing. Far off, small, easily dismissed.
I recently heard someone say that if a pessimist sees a glass as half-empty and an optimist sees the same glass as half-full, hope knows the glass will be filled again someday. It’s the ability to stand up yet again to a bully’s blow because you see your big brother on his way to your defense. Something is different because you see change heading your way.
This is easy to think about, but excruciating to apply when we live experiences of pain, weariness and loss. We can know that things will be made right one day, but we ache against the wrongness around us right now. We can believe that Jesus will rework the world and perfect it all, but we wrestle with the imperfections that tangle around us right now. We can trust that we will be filled and reunited, but we find ourselves empty and lonely right now. We can look forward to understanding, but we drown in our questions for now.
Even in faith, hope can seem too far off, too small because it is a background thing. Though it is big enough to cover everything we experience, we cannot fathom how that tiny speck on the horizon will envelope the brokenness of our world and make it whole. It appears insufficient to fill even the hole in our own hearts when they feel shattered or lonely or angry or weak or sad.
We have to consciously choose to stand back up and face the bully, though it be to yet another blow, because we know that He is coming. And for my part, for today, when the struggles that vie for my focus close in, I will choose to look beyond and remember the power that waits patiently in the background.