Hope-Shaped Creatures

By Julie Rhodes

Presbyterian minister and author Timothy Keller has written, “Human beings are hope-shaped creatures. The way you live now is completely controlled by what you believe about your future.”

Think about that for a moment. Is this true?   

You get up, go to work. Maybe you believe your future holds career achievement. A stable retirement. A bill that’s coming due. 

You stick with your spouse despite deep struggle. You believe in the future God will either smooth out the way or make something beautiful from the pain.

You feed your kids, fold their laundry, fill out All The Forms. You believe their future holds a higher education. The happiness of a life well cultivated. A world that hasn’t ended just yet.

Or maybe you get up, go to work, invest in your marriage, and feed your kids because these are the right things to do. Part of this, perhaps, means you believe a Future You might someday look back on your own life glad at having done your best, or that you’ll eventually meet a God who would have something to say about it.

What are you struggling to do today? What relationship or endeavor seems impossible? Could it be you have lost hope in its particular future?

Each year, I have grown to love more and more the certainty, the hard lines and solid weight and inevitability of heaven; of a world without end (in a good way), a world made new, a world that has no need of sun because “The Lord God will be their light” (Rev 22:5). A world where “no longer will there be anything accursed,” where we will “see his face”, where “he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more.”

This is my future. This is your future. This is the future of the children of God, just as sure as the date 2047 will come to pass someday, just as sure as your cup of coffee was hot and black and real this morning. It is not in the abstract, not just a poetic image to encourage us by its beauty and transcendence. It is beautiful, it is transcendent, but the truth of it, the reality of a world without tears and God at its center, is the most important thing. It’s actually going to happen.

And suddenly, all my sub-futures pale in comparison to Our Future.

Still, I wish I knew my sub-futures. Wish I could be given a date and time for when certain uncertainties will be resolved. I wish someone, like maybe Elijah or Moses or the ghost of Prince, could tell me, “On September 14, 2047, you will be wearing a white linen skirt, and will have eggs and berries for breakfast. Also, you will attend the wedding of your granddaughter. Everyone will be whole. You will look back at the investment over the years with deep satisfaction. All the sacrifice will have been worth it.”

But no, the future is shade and blur. We echo the Psalmist: “Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather. And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you” (39:6-7).

What shape will our God-hope take today? How can we sidestep the shadow? Can our expectation of heaven be made manifest on May 11, 2016 and can we be “completely controlled” by this hope, as Tim Keller suggests? 

Maybe not perfectly, but we can do our best. We can take little glances upward. Small breaths. Millsecond prayers. Tiny tent-revivals, mini homilies, the small sanctuary in a sip of coffee. A sunward face, warm with the coming light.

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