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The Rev. Mark Sargent Mark Sargent

Mark Sargent is a retired United Methodist minister who works in the private sector and resides in Rome, GA.

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On Advent and Hope and Changing Locations

December 06, 2010

I was leafing through a book of poems the other day.  That's what we English Lit. majors do from time to time!  I hope you find this little gem from the pen of Gerald Locklin to be as nourishing and resonant as I did.  By the way, like e.e. cummings, Dr. Locklin believes that capital letters are highly overrated.  The poem is entitled, "where we are."

i envy those
who live in two places:
new york, say, and london;
wales and spain;
l.a. and paris;
hawaii and switzerland.

there is always the anticipation
of the change, the chance that what is wrong
is the result of where you are. i have
always loved both the freshness of
arriving and the relief of leaving. with
two homes every move would be a homecoming.
i am not even considering the weather, hot
or cold, dry or wet: i am talking about hope.

 

Advent is a season of hope.  It's a time that we touch once again our deepest desires that some things will one day be different.  Some day, things will be better.  Some day, things will be right.  Some day, I will have laid aside that grudge or will have experienced healing for that wound.  Some day, that burden will be lifted or that cloud dispelled.  Some day, somehow, what is wrong about my life or the world or my family can be different.  I am talking about hope. 

And, thankfully, sometimes things can change.  Like many of you, I have made some big decisions in my life, some quite recently, that ushered in a totally different set of circumstances for me, in the hope that some of what's amiss can be made aright.  In that spirit, I bring you a word of hopeful encouragement to change what you want to change about your life and about the world.  Life is short.  Time is fleeting.  The clock is ticking.  And, if you have been inner-urged to do something, do it!  To be sure, it takes courage to change one's circumstance, because change often requires the dismantling of things previously built.  But, this is your life we're talking about! 

But, what if (and this is often true) some of the painful circumstances I am dealing with cannot be changed?  Water trips over the dam very quickly, and horses leave the barns with blazing speed.  And, things do end, and loved ones do die, and one can never really go home again.  Then what?  Is hope lost?  Is hope to be found only in the power to change things?  Thankfully, no.

Dr. Locklin is right.  Often, we delude ourselves into thinking that what's wrong is the result of where we are.  My life is teaching me that what is wrong is sometimes the result of my relationship to where I am.  Even if my location cannot change, my relationship to my location can, and therein lies awesome hope!  That's the freedom that Dr. Viktor Frankl refers to as humanity's last freedom--the freedom to choose my attitude toward my circumstance, even toward an undesirable and unchangeable circumstance. 

As I write, I feel a tap on my shoulder, and it is that old Serenity Prayer wanting to be rehearsed here.  "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

I am talking about hope!  And, within your hopeful heart resides the courage to change what you want to change.  I suspect there are many of us who know what it is we want to be different, and who know that such change is possible, but who lack the courage to make it.  Be of good courage, and do not fear!  Remember that you are loved, and love casts out fear!

Likewise, each of us faces circumstances that we don't want but which we cannot control.  But, we can live in two places with respect to those, too!  Never forget that we have the hopeful freedom to re-locate ourselves to a new place of relating with our unwanted unchangeables.  There is the freshness of arriving at such a place--a place of peace and acceptance and tranquility, even in the face of things we didn't ask for and don't want and can't change.

I am talking about hope.  I am talking about the hope Jesus brings.  And, whether that hope is found in the courage to change what we can or in the peace to relate differently to what we cannot change, I wish it for you this season and always.  I am talking about hope, and I wish it for you.

 


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