This article originally appeared in the HOPE (DESPAIR) issue of Spit & Spirit. Learn more & get your copy
Do you ever feel foolish for having hope? Or that your hopes and dreams aren’t valid? Maybe you’re not deserving, maybe you’re being frivolous, maybe you’re unrealistic.
I know, sometimes it’s not a lack of hope that I suffer from but an abundance of hope.
Some of my foolish are hopes are for things like worldwide economic justice and peace. For the end to violence. For happy, healthy, families in all sorts of varieties. Those feel unrealistic but acceptable. I don’t think anyone is going to judge me for “hoping” for those things. Hoping for world peace is so common these days it’s almost a cliche.
Sometimes I hope for things that I know I can’t control. I hope this weather will hold out and we’ll have another mild winter in New York City. I hope that we find a cure for HIV soon. I hope the Washington football team will win another Super Bowl (and change their name too).
But what about the hopes that are more personal? Is it possible for hope to be selfish?
I hope for a long and healthy life. Heck, I hope to be even healthier next month than I am this month.
I hope to always have enough money to live comfortably—and to earn that money in ways that are enjoying and fulfilling.
I hope to live near my parents, to see them regularly, and for them to live long lives.
You know, when I was a kid I used to hope that Jesus would come back and we’d all go to heaven before anyone in my family died. Now, I don’t believe that will ever happen … but I still sorta hope it does.
I hope to learn to sing and to one day record a song. I hope to make a music video out of it.
I hope that my relationship with Peter will last a lifetime. I hope that it will always be mutually fulfilling. I hope it will be the type of relationship that always makes space for others, one that is filled with generosity.
I hope that Fr. Shay and I will be able to travel together for Queer Theology more often, will be able to spend more time physically together.
I hope to create art for myself. I hope to create art for other people.
What’s the difference between a hope, a dream, and a goal?
If you asked me before we started working on this issue, I probably would have given a more lofty, spiritual definition for hope. Something pure and wholesome. But sometimes, when I’m having sex, I hope that I’ll orgasm at the same time as my boyfriend. Can that be a hope too?
Spit & Spirit is so-named because in these pages we try to bridge the sacred and the profane. We recognize that not only is Jesus a spiritual leader, he also picked up mud and spit in it to heal a blind person. He touched lepers and forgave sin. He fed the masses and he preached about God.
Perhaps those secret dreams and goals and ambitions that I tuck away are hopes too, worthy of being discussed out in the open, worthy of being shared in a spiritual context. Perhaps even my hope to perform as a dancer, my hope to run my own business, my hope to spend more time with my family, perhaps all of that is wound up in my hope to create the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven, wound up in my hope for economic justice, wound up in reconciliation.
Howard Thurman, an author and theologian, Dean of Chapel at Howard University and Boston University, famously said,
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
It’s a quote I come back to often, one that I message to friends who need encouragement, one that I want desperately to believe in. But one that, if I’m honest, I have trouble applying to myself.
There’s still a part of me that believes those hopes and dreams that make me come alive are selfish. That they’ll somehow take away from the good available in the world. That I should have more sophisticated, more spiritual, more practical hopes.
It’s OK to hope that your father survives his struggle with cancer or that your sister gets into graduate school, or that your depression stays at bay… but somehow, still, I judge my own hopes. Hopes that I’ll make art that will move others, hopes that I’ll be physically strong, hopes my work will make an impact on lives and communities, hopes that I’ll be happy and fulfilled.
As is usually the case, I don’t have a ribbon to tie this up with. You’ll rarely find action steps in Spit & Spirit (though, as fate would have it, we do have some on pages 15 & 26 of this issue).
Instead I want to leave you with this: I want to believe we can live into a world where all of our hopes and dreams are valid and honored. So here’s my deal with you: if you’ll be gentle with mine, I’ll keep trying to share them; and I promise to be gentle with yours, if you’ll share them with me.