Hope begins in the dark

anne lamott

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”  Anne Lamott

For a world-class worrier like me those words ring true. Hope does begin in the dark.  It’s like Easter in that way.  It begins in the early dawn when we aren’t quite sure what we’re seeing, when there’s a lot more doubt and panic than faith.

Hope begins as a glimmer, the faintest sort of thing, that if you aren’t looking closely for it, you miss it.

I miss it often.  I’m not one of those people who sees God all the time in every single moment.  I sometimes envy those people who are able to do that, or claim they’re able to do that, but I’ve never been one of them.  I tend to remember later what happened, that thing I saw, and then I’ll think, “Wow, what was that?  That was no coincidence.”

But even then I’ll be skeptical about it.  And it’s not that I don’t want to give God credit for much of what happens.  It’s that I don’t very often know what to make of what happens in my life.  Was it God?  Or was it something else?

Sometimes I don’t dare to let myself think that God would do something wonderful for me.

A few months ago, in a really dark time, I saw a glimmer of something and wanted it to be a reason for hope.  I kept looking, and as Anne Lamott puts it, I kept waiting and watching and working.  And today I’m pretty much convinced that I saw something. Some people around me knew what it was before I did.  One person I know who claims no faith – at least not in any conventional, church-going sense – said, “That sure looks like God to me.”

She was right.  And so I thought, “If she can see it, then it must be something I should pay attention to.”

I hope to get better at this as I get older.  I’m working on it.  I would like to notice – a little earlier and with a little more certainty – what God is up to in my life.

(Photo credit: That’s Anne Lamott.)

About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.


6 Responses to Hope begins in the dark

  1. Paul Burgess July 22, 2013 at 11:54 am #

    It’s posts like this that remind me of your very special “human-ness”, who trusts in God and yet still has questions and doubts. It’s good to know that a man of God still can be open about the difficulties that you face. I, too, tend to see God’s work only when some time has passed. I share your desire to be able to more closely identify God’s work AS IT HAPPENS!

    • Doug July 22, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

      Thanks for the kind words, Paul.

  2. Laura Lazzari July 22, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

    Your name came up in a conversation with a church member I just met for the first time today. You have touched so many of our lives and we both talked about how you made us both laugh and cry listening to your message. I am glad I found out about your blog. I look forward to reading your messages.

    • Doug July 23, 2013 at 5:36 am #

      Thanks, Laura. It’s good to hear from you!

  3. mike July 24, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

    I was lucky to win the lottery about a year and a half ago when my wife’s Mom passed away.
    That sounded it awful now that I am re-reading it.

    I mean winning the lottery in this way…within an hour of her passing I had one of those ‘no-doubt-about-it” God just showed me something moments. And it couldn’t have been more real. And it filled me with hope.

    I think the challenge of hope is a lot like the challenge that comes after winning the lottery – when you have it don’t squander it, don’t lose it. And don’t forget how lucky we are to be plugged-into Christ and a life with so much hope.

    Thanks for the post Doug – it reminded me of something I always want to remember.

  4. Catrina July 25, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    I recently read two of Anne Lamott’s books as part of my summer reading ~ what a gifted writer. She brings to mind that old addage: “Everyone has a story.” She hasn’t lived an ideal life but yet she has gifts to share with us all; and I’m so grateful for her decision to share them. I agree with Paul B. ~ I appreciate your human-ness, doubts,, questions, all of it. God meets us where we are ~ in the midst of the doubts, questions, and sometimes hopelessness. He meets us…accompanies us on the journey…and never leaves our side. What a blessing to wake up to this post!!