Days of Hope: An Exercise in Hopebuilding
Updated: Jan 8, 2022
Yesterday Hubs and I got into a very heated argument. So heated in fact, that he quietly told me that he couldn't' stand to be next to me in that moment and excused himself to go to our bedroom. Not long after, I thought to myself "I can't keep doing this over and over again. Something needs to give."
We're on our 16th year of marriage. That was our 1,008th argument over a particular topic. I thought by now we would have reached a point where that issue was no longer an issue. But it's one of those touchpoints in a marriage I suppose...it's sensitive, and without a solution.
Normally, it would take me days to get my head out of the fight...the words that were spoken and heard. But last night I went to bed challenging my usual thoughts and their subsequent emotions. Last night, instead of mentally noting additional details to support my side of the argument, I prayed for help instead.
"Dear God, please help us with our marriage."
That's the part I whispered aloud, into the dark of my room after everyone was asleep. As I lay there drifting off, I silently added how exhausted I was, and how I needed to be free of this. But I also asked for wisdom in the situation, for eyes to see what I was missing or misunderstanding, and for grace to abound since we both wanted our own way.
The next morning, Hubs apologized to me, and I, surprised but moved (God heard my prayer!) apologized to him. It was a quick but heartfelt acknowledgement of each other, and it set the morning right.
As I sat down a bit later for my morning meditation, I realized the day was good. It was good because we had taken a new step that pointed us in a slightly different direction in our relationship, after 1,008 same steps that led us nowhere. As small as that was, it was all I needed in that moment to offer up a grateful "thank you," and see hope anew.
I realize this sounds simplistic, and maybe even corny, or maybe it's not even believable at all, but for me this small change was significant, because it demonstrated that despite being creatures of habit...despite a vast majority of people believing that people don't change (which is not only unscientific, but completely bereft of any hope at all)...this subtle shift meant that we were capable and committed to doing better and being better, for the sake of each other and for the health of our marriage.
This is how strong families are made, how love is sustained, how hope is built.
Which got me thinking...in a year of pandemics (not just COVID but the mental pandemic as well)...what gives us hope? There's a plethora of data from studies that describe the importance of hope in our lives (a lot of it is also related to gratitude). So what are some things that stir hope for us? Even now when we're worn out, burned out, and stressed out? How can we preserve hope? How can we take whatever glimmer of hope we have, and build on it? How does hope grow? Can we nurture it?
I tend to think yes, we can. Not because I'm an optimist (I'm not) or because I've put on blinders (I haven't) but because I think we can pretty much do whatever we set our minds to...especially if we choose to set our minds on things that are good, pure, true, lovely, and honorable (my own Philippians 4:8 paraphrase).
So I thought I'd do another self-experiment...I'm going to log signs of hope whenever I see them for the remainder of the year and share what I've learned at the end of it. And I won't beat myself up if I miss some days. If the pandemic has taught me anything, it's that time is too precious to waste on my inner negative critic. The point of this experiment will be to document whatever impact this exercise has on my perspective and behavior. In alignment with that, my personal goal will be to increase my capacity for hope...to recognize it in the world around me as well as in the world inside me. We are built for hope, are we not?
I welcome you to join me, and see where this leads.