Walking Our Faith: What a future and a hope looks like (column)
Walking our faith
When I returned home in July 2005, I discovered a picture of myself among things I’d packed away while I lived overseas. In the picture, I stood in the kitchen of a friend’s house. I was demonstrating how to cook a dish, an apron around my waist, my hair pulled back in a bun.
In the picture, I’m captured mid-sentence, looking down at the bowl, my hands hovering over the food as I describe what I’m preparing. At the time that picture was taken, I’d just left Wall Street and was beginning to write and share my love of cooking with others.
There was an 11-year gap between when the photo was taken and when I discovered the photo again, I’d just returned from seven years overseas. The woman in the picture and the woman holding the picture could not have been more different, even though they were the same woman separated by years. And my first thought was, ‘I wish I could recapture the passion she felt about what she was doing.’
The woman in the picture was pursuing a passion, the woman holding the photo had a lot more money in the bank but was otherwise jaded and sad and empty and always pursuing something that might help her to fill those empty spots.
When I lived in Kiev, Ukraine, for a year, in 1999, I celebrated my birthday in a friend’s apartment. One friend brought three dozen long-stemmed pink roses, another friend made a memorable dinner and we had a party that filled his apartment with friends who stayed very late and drank very much. It was like many other parties during that time of my life.
But what I remember most vividly is a young pastor who came to our apartment before these festivities and said that he had a Bible verse to share with me as a gift. It was Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Hearing this verse for the first time, I thought it was a promise of fame and success: “plans to prosper you, to give you a future and a hope,” I saw riches coming my way. I was heading for a life on Easy Street, happy times were here again.
I believe that is why Jeremiah 29:11 is so often quoted. Who doesn’t want an assurance that things will get better? At the time that I received this blessing, I’d floundered as I tried to find my footing in a new career. I needed a future and a hope.
By the time I stood in my bedroom so many years after the picture in a friend’s kitchen had been taken, and the blessing in Kiev received, I’d given up on hope and my future.
I become most aware of the changing seasons during the 5 p.m. hour of Adoration at St. Mary’s. As summer approaches, the late-afternoon sun floods through the stained-glass blue of Mary’s robe in the window behind the altar. The Blessed Sacrament held aloft in the monstrance captures this changing light. And as I watch the changing light and think about Jeremiah 29:11, I understand its meaning is more nuanced than a lottery ticket blessing.
From God’s perspective, to give us a future and a hope isn’t about granting wishes for a prosperous and carefree life. It’s about helping us to discover who God created us to be.
“A future and a hope” mean very different things to us and to God. Our perspective may be measured in years, but God is thinking about eternity. Our idea of success might be measured in dollars and social standing, God’s measure of success is whether we realize the purpose of our lives, the unique reason that each of us was created.
“A future and a hope” takes on a whole new meaning when you’ve just survived a terrible accident. Or when a heart attack sends you home from a job you loved overseas to years of painful recovery, only to discover that a “future and a hope” resembles the missionary life that inspired you as a young girl, but now your mission field has become your neighbors at the age of 91.
“A future and a hope” are not the lavish holidays, shopping trips, and constant striving that used to define my life. It is the realization of a childhood dream to become a writer, the college student’s desire to pursue a master’s degree in divinity, the woman in the picture’s desire to share my love of cooking. The mature woman’s desire to create a life defined by my own terms, not those I was always measuring myself against.
“A future and a hope” is God’s promise to guide us to become the person he created us to be. If we allow that transformation, we discover God’s definition of success is far superior to anything we could have achieved on our own. Because God knows our truest self.
I recently pulled that picture out of a box and I’m surprised at how much it resembles my life today. I am still a work in progress, but I am closer to where I am meant to be. Many times, over the years I felt abandoned by God, but I see that God always kept his promise to provide a future and a hope, his definition was simply far better than mine.
Our future and our hope might take years, or decades, as mine did. The key is that we walk that path with God because his view of our lives is our best life. This is what I am discovering in my own life. I hope it is what you will discover in yours. It’s there. You only have to look to God to discover it. And know that it is never too late to become who you were created to be.
Suzanne Anderson lives in Breckenridge.
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