hope vs. expectation

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Hope is essential. It’s an attitude of heart and mind that trusts in life, that refuses to quit. Hope that is active has an adventurous, open-heartedness and an enthusiasm that helps us move forward into the Mystery with an energetic buoyancy. This kind of hope doesn’t come from the outside, but is a well-spring hidden within us. This version of hope is a basic human need.

But this isn’t how we often think of hope. Our usual way of thinking of hope is tied together with a specific outcome. It’s little more than wishful thinking. This kind of hope looks to something outside of us to make us happy, rejecting what is present in the here and now. It’s the flip-side of fear. When the outcome isn’t achieved, our hopes are dashed.

I learned this recently when I realized my surgery didn’t provide the remission I had set my hopes on. I fell into darkness and distress. I lost my hard-won ability to be at home with Crohn’s disease. My anxiety and anger covered over the inner resources of objectivity and wisdom and I suffered for several weeks with deep disappointment and despair.

I denied my heartache for as long as I could, until I thought I would break open. When I turned to my sorrow and let myself fully inhabit the storms of suffering, I began to rest in the calmness beyond the struggles. My perception shifted and I realized that I had pinned my happiness on remission. I began to look again for the hope that takes me inside myself and points to the good to be found in my experience. I stopped suffering over symptoms I didn’t choose and couldn’t keep from returning and instead began the journey toward discovering the value of living fully given my current condition.

This kind of hope requires a clear intention and a letting go. Releasing what used to be and the craving for what I imagined should be freed me to embrace the truth of what is, in this moment. I stepped back into the grace of remembering that wholeness is possible even if a cure is not. Full of gratitude for this precious life, I turn to step back into the flowing, unpredictable, and wondrous river of Mystery and find I never left it and this, too, was grace.

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