During our inaugural YOBBERS retreat, all attendees were assigned to one of five small groups (“tribes”) whose weekend discussions would focus on each of our five YOB values: hope, humility, brotherhood, courage, and vulnerability. Three of our authors were assigned to the Hope Tribe, along with seven other men. What follows is a conversation sharing some of what we learned that weekend: finding hope for relationships and hope in Jesus.
RYAN: You may remember I was late getting to the retreat, so I missed our first tribal discussion. Can you guys recap what you took away from that first discussion?
EUGENE: I think the first set of questions basically asked, “What words come to your mind when you think of hope?” I remember someone saying that in Spanish the literal translation of hope is “to wait.” So, a lot of us related how we’ve kept up hope while in transitional times of waiting.
I can relate to this a lot.
I’ve had long stretches in my life just hoping and waiting for things to get better. All through college, I hoped I would find my community and my brothers.
The waiting, of course, felt like several centuries (can’t God just give us fast-passes for this kind of thing?). It was painful.
But it was worth the wait.
JACOB: Something else someone brought up was that one of the challenges in generally talking about hope is the way we use the word in English. We use this same word, hope, whether we’re saying, “My hope is in Jesus for the salvation of my soul and the promise of life eternal” and “I hope Kroger is still selling my favorite kind of cheese.”
In the way we most commonly talk about hope, it’s synonymous with phrases like “I wish” or “it would be nice if” or “I want,” rather than biblical hope which is certain and sure and trustworthy and unwavering.
As with any good topic, definitions are so important if you hope (see what I did there) to have meaningful conversation.
One of my favorite questions from our first gathering was whether we were happy about being in the Hope Tribe or if we found ourselves wishing we were in one of the other ones. Can you remind me of your answer, Eugene?
EUGENE: I remember we went around and asked which tribe we’d have preferred had we chosen them ourselves. I said either Vulnerability or Brotherhood. At the same time, though, I said I was glad to be in the Hope Tribe because it made me examine a value that I sort of overlook. I’d never really considered the importance of hope and how my times with my brothers have filled me up with so much of it.
Being on the Hope Tribe helped me confront a lot of times in my past where I truly have lost hope in finding love and brotherhood.
JACOB: Ryan, I don’t believe you had a chance to answer that question.
RYAN: I’m not gonna lie, if the Sorting Hat had been on my head, I’d have been whispering “Brotherhood” to it. I think “brotherhood” as an idealized concept or experience is beguiling to a lot of us in a way that, say, “hope” isn’t. Perhaps because “brotherhood” is fundamentally relational.
But I see the value in devoting that kind of attention to a topic like hope as well. Retracing the same mental tracks over and over again is how things get stagnant. Like, whatever conversation they had in the Brotherhood Tribe, I’ve probably already had it before.
JACOB: Ryan, at one you point you talked about some challenges you’ve faced when holding onto hope because of how past hopes have led to painful disappointment. Would you be willing to share some of those?
RYAN: Mostly what I had in mind were times when I hoped for specific things from specific people. I hoped this person would show me a certain amount and type of affection. I hoped that person would demonstrate relational commitment to me in a certain way that I wanted.
In those past situations, I didn’t always navigate the boundary between hope and entitlement very well, and the result was that painful disappointment you referenced. Really, I’d say that sums up the challenge for me: having hope without entitlement.
It feels like if I let myself hope for anything in a remotely concrete way — especially in a relational context — before I know it, I’ve set up all these expectations that are disappointments waiting to happen.
But then, do I stop hoping for good things from my friends? I don’t know. It’s hard to imagine that’s what God wants.
Maybe there’s a way I can hope for some of those relational things while keeping my hope in Jesus alone.
EUGENE: I can relate to this, Ryan. I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of that sort of thing. Sometimes people put a ton of hope in me with the expectation that I’m the “angel of bromance.” While I try my best, they see that I have human flaws and get disillusioned.
I have sometimes put the same hope in other people that they will be perfect and never hurt me because I’m entitled to it: I’ve gone through so much hurt in my life that I must deserve perfection from this other person.
But now I’m learning to go into any friendship simply hoping for the best from it. And if there are any problems in it, I hope that we will resolve them and try working through them as best as we can.
One cannot hope for a relationship without pain; there is no such thing.
JACOB: My time in the Hope Tribe reminded me that hope isn’t just something we possess individually and keep to ourselves but one of the most precious gifts we can give to another human being. In 1 Peter, the author speaks about always being ready to give a reason for the hope we have within us, even in the midst of suffering.
Sharing hope with others, even amid suffering, is one of the most powerful and effective ways of sharing the Gospel.
One of my favorite life-mottos is: “Absorb chaos. Give back calm. Provide hope.” I long for my interactions with other people to be permeated by those statements.
RYAN: That’s a really good point, Jacob, and something I’m apt to overlook in my rush to make sure I’m taken care of. We are called to look beyond ourselves and seek ways to provide for others.
EUGENE: It’s like the lyrics from that Prince of Egypt song, “When You Believe”:
Though hope is frail, it’s hard to kill.
It’s so true. I’ve had hope my whole life for many things. I’ve often had hope shattered, but hope has never been completely destroyed. Hope is always worth holding onto, especially for those times when hope is realized.
I think if I had lost hope in all things, I would have never found YOB. And like you said Jacob, I feel strongly now that I want to share that hope with others. As a blogger, I want to give all of our followers and readers hope.
RYAN: One thing I’ve often reflected on is how I honestly don’t have that much trouble hoping for far-away, abstract things, regardless how big they are — that the Lord will bring to completion the work he’s started in me or that thanks to Christ’s death and resurrection I will spend eternity in glory with him.
Since those things are so far away, so abstract, you might as well believe they’re going to happen. Those promises from God don’t seem falsifiable.
But I have a harder time hoping in God in the short-term — like whether God will give me what I need to make it through the week or whether God will give me the vision and passion I need to keep my ministry at church going another few months. Those promises are harder to hope in because it feels like something is actually “on the line,” I guess.
I’m curious if you guys can relate to that or if you struggle more with those big, far-off hopes?
JACOB: I can totally relate with what you’re saying, Ryan, and this is something I believe I shared during our tribal time. I wish that those big-picture, epic hopes that are secure and certain (salvation, reconciliation with God, removal of wrath, eternal life, immediate presence of Jesus, etc.) had greater impact on how I hope in God for the smaller things — like his provision which allows me to make it through the week.
There are so many weighty, precious, and eternal realities that we’ve been promised that they should make our hearts soar with confidence that God will provide for all of our needs in the here and now.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul says:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Our hope is built upon and rooted in God’s giving Jesus for us, and there is no greater foundation than that.
Do you wrestle with hope? Hope for earthly things versus hope in eternal things? What are some hopes you’ve seen realized in your life with Jesus?