Hope reflects in our lives

How God Rekindles Your Hope in Darkness

Reading Time: 5 minutes

On December 31, 1977 I sat fidgeting with the buttons on my flannel shirt in The Red-Headed-Wildflower’s parent’s living room. I was nervous because I hadn’t seen her since I dropped out of high school and joined the Navy in ’74. Making the two hour drive out of the snowy mountains, I had dropped by hoping she would be home. She had sent me a Christmas card. I hoped by some crazy magic we could reconnect. We had once “dated” but after breaking up remained close friends. We once had faith in common.   

She was beautiful. Her red hair framed her innocent, inviting face, her gentle smile. Peace pooled in her green eyes. I envied that peace. She told me about her new friends at Colorado State University. How she was walking with Jesus again. She planned to become a social worker and help troubled kids.

I stammered around. 

I had a gram of cocain stashed in my jeans pocket for New Year’s Eve enhancement. My life was a sham. My hope was gone!

I had failed to fulfill my obligation to serve in the Navy Reserve after active duty. The Navy was looking for me. I had hid in the mountains living in a sheep herder’s wagon and then a tent, broke, confused, and not walking with Jesus. I had finally landed a job at Climax Molybdenum Mine in Leadville by lying on the application.

But I told The Redheaded-Wildflower none of that.

“How’s your walk with the Lord?” she asked with sweet boldness. I had introduced her to both drugs and Jesus. I was glad it was Jesus who she stuck with. Her question pinned me to my chair. 

“It’s getting better,” I lied. But it wasn’t a bold-faced lie. It was a shame-faced lie. God had been pestering me. At every turn the verse from Matthew 6:33 haunted me: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” In the King James no less. Translated in my heart that verse said, “Walk with Me again. I’ll show you the way.” 

In that moment I recognized the freedom I believed I had living in the Rockies, answering to no one, and defining my own reality was as starkly lonely as Mount Massive standing to the west of my one-room Leadville cabin.

That day The Redheaded-Wildflower’s quiet, honest, skewering question was God speaking to me through her. After a night-long wrestling match between God and me and my gram of cocain, on January 1, 1978 I started “walking with the Lord” again.

 Fast Forward Forty Years

God nudged me with that memory on December 31, 2020 as The Redheaded-Wildflower and I sipped New Year’s Malbec and processed this contaminated, quarantined year.

A year in which death and fear have raced to see which could claim more victims. In which the most advanced thinkers and leaders have been stymied. Polarized political pain has pervaded our lives. And insanity poured from the Oval Office.

It’s been personal too. My oldest sister passed away—not from COVID but because of the isolation and fear from it. On-line worship and fellowship and meetings have sometimes left a larger hole than they have promised to fill. I desperately miss handshakes and hugs!

I’ve heard many people declare 2020 the worst year ever. And it has been a long slog. Can anything good come from 2020? 

But as I mulled the years between 1977 and now, several other difficult years raised their hands saying, “Remember me?” 

Too well!

A Reverie on Redemption

Once again I recognized, given my tragectory, I could have missed 2020 altogether. How does one get from who I was in 1977 to who I am now? I have so many friends and family who drove off into the ditch. And never climbed out.

Not that God isn’t still doing major redesigns on me. And The Redheaded-Wildflower too. And there have been painful, desperate seasons even “walking with the Lord.”  

But God has been there. 

That’s what I noticed in my reverie. Not only the impossible days, weeks, months, and sometimes years. But I saw God’s shadow. Day by day, step by step. As with Cleopas and his friend walking back along the dejected, impossible eight miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus, having just witnessed Jesus crucified, and suddenly Jesus is walking with them, comforting them (though they don’t recognize him yet), I too have had God’s often unrecognized presence with me in my grief and sorrow.

It’s not just that Jesus walks with us. It’s that he speaks truth as we walk along. He interprets our stories based on his redemptive reality. Cleopas believed the story that Jesus was dead and all hope lost until “[Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” That’s when their hearts caught fire. Hope in the darkest moment rekindled!

Whatever happened to you in 2020 and beyond is not beyond God’s touch. Listen to Jesus as you walk. His truth heals. His truth rekindles hope even in the darkest times.

Sometimes he appears in the guise of a fellow traveler. In 1977 God spoke through The Redheaded-Wildflower.

God Not Calendars Change Us

The rolling of the calendar from December 31 to January 1 is not what changed my life nor what brings new hope. That’s just a temporal tick of the clock. It’s not resolutions. Administrations. Jobs. Weight loss. It’s redemption. God alone speaks alchemy into our leaden lives and turns them to gold. Every day that we grab God’s hand and listen for his voice dawns new!

As I look back, I see the long trail of our lives. It has twisted, scaled, plummeted, dashed, disappeared, and snaked along precipitous cliff edges. No easy steps.

“How’d we make it?” I asked The Redheaded-Wildflower. Unwilling to give the true but easy answer of “walking with Jesus,” The Redheaded-Wildflower shrugged, smiled, and sipped more wine.

  

 

11 thoughts on “How God Rekindles Your Hope in Darkness”

  1. Georgie Ann KETTIG

    in Truth, God leaves us many signs of His existence and His Presence,… but what are we looking at?,… what are we paying attention to?,… I find that I have to withdraw from many of the (perhaps well-intentioned) activities and “information blasts” available, if I wish to keep awareness of God conscious and accessible in my thoughts and feelings,… and, I am very grateful to have safe and peaceful enough surroundings to be able to do that, more or less as an ongoing lifestyle,…

    just recently, I was surprised by a kind of “soul agony”, that occurred as more people than I could “handle”, began to want to get together with me at times of the day that don’t work for me for “socializing” (or even being fully awake!),… I understand my own pattern(s) and limitations, and so does God, apparently, because He never seems offended by my personal solitary rest needs and lifestyle ~ in fact, He is very healing and comforting to me with His Presence and Love,… but the “human friends”?,… their own “wishes and desires , enthusiasms, ideas and hopes” were coming on so strong, that my inability to “jump to their tune” was experienced as a rebuff!,… (and even though I had explained such “realities about myself” many times),…

    this is actually a good example of how God truly understands and accepts us and our needs, even way surpassing the “good intentions” of “real friends”,… having a personal dependency on God for healing and rest, is actually a great blessing, and not one that is so easy to communicate to others,… during this Christmas season, I got “on board” with some of the social things that many expect to do and take for granted every year, (but that I almost never do myself), such as watching “Christmas movies” on TV,… I joined them a few times, and that was “way more than enough” for me!,… I felt the displacing effect that that much electronic viewing time had on my usual “thought/prayer” awareness lifestyle, and decided that it wasn’t really worth it for me to engage in,… I would rather meet with them in a quiet coffee shop or neutral restaurant setting for “warm times” and real interpersonal conversation(s),… but such gathering places are more often closed than open these days,…

    I can’t believe that I wrote so much about this,… it was difficult to experience my own inability to “meet someone else’s needs”, as far as socializing, etc,… but I did also realize how easy God makes these things for me,… to paraphrase: “If we seek Him, we will find Him”,… and happily so,… (-:

    1. Georgie Ann: I can’t believe I never replied to this. I apologize. I think you not only sharing your tension about people’s expectations but also tuning into many of ours. I know I am constantly weighing my weaknesses and abilities against others’ expectations. I think I often fail myself and them.

      This is where grace makes so much sense and is a powerful elixir. As God gives me grace, I absorb its much needed balm. But there is always more than I need so I ask God to help me pour it out to others.

      Thank you for always digging so deep. And Happy New Year!

      1. Georgie Ann KETTIG

        Thanks, Eugene!,… “The Holidays” and Winter always bring us more challenges and opportunities than we’re often used to handling,… but it’s also a great time to “rise to the occasions!”,… but I’m also, always gratified when the “pep” runs out, to be able to lean back and find peace and rest in the warm and cozy “arms of God”,… He Who made me, knows me so well,… (-:

  2. Rosalind Fowler

    I loved every word of this Eugene…great post!

  3. John Moyer

    Wonderful listening tour you story. Thru the “magic” of technology and Apple software I listen. My vision is so impaired with retinal atrophy, I cannot read documents.
    Margaret and I have gotten much closer in the past year. Staying close to home, doing what Dr. Fauci has told us to do.
    What a mysterious plague.
    Church is virtual, teaching medical students virtual, talking to the grandkids is distanced. Our community group is thru ZOOm magic.
    What an odd and challenging path God has given me to follow in now my 80th year. Last week HE enabled me to get my first vaccine dose. What a gift. If I have a certain number of years left, I do not want to spend any time in an ICU. Being home with a loving wife now nearly 57years of marriage and listening to audiobooks is a great way to lock down. Margaret and I start the day with God’s Word and have no difficulty finding applications to our long lives together.
    You are the first sheep herder wagon inhabitant I have known personally!

    1. John: Thanks for listening and commenting. And thank you for the update. We too are staying close to home and keeping safe. I’m glad you and Margaret are well. And keep teaching. God gave you so much to offer.

      Haha. The sheepherder wagon had had the wheels removed and locals called it The Lunch Box. It was an experience. I couldn’t have done it in winter.

  4. Debbie Guikema

    Eugene
    Thanks for this reflection on this wild unsettling year. I have not made myself do this yet, but now I will. God in His grace and unending love draws me close by His Word and spending more time speaking and listening to Him. This year has been good in that way, but I too, miss contact and hugs and face to face so much. My dear husband Harv is my encourager and friend and he’s the best to be staying in with!
    Have you started a book yet? Your writing in so good and your pictures make me miss my Colorado home. They are great. Think about it. We may look you guys up this year when we come west to see our family. That’s been the hardest this year, not seeing my kids and grands.
    Deb

    1. You’re welcome. I am grateful God is using my experience and life to encourage you and others. Isn’t it strange of us that we often only see how deep and wide is his love in difficult times.

      I have started it. It is going well and I am learning so much! It’s tentatively titled “Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws: A Journey through Fear to Faith.” I’ll keep you posted. I’ll begin looking for agents or publishers next month.

      Please let us know when you are here. It would be wonderful to see you.

  5. Kari Dahlin

    Eugene, your writer’s gift blesses me always. I did a fair amount pondering over 2020 in the last month. Yes, it was a very hard, exhausting, lonely year for me. I had to resurrect old and find new ways to nourish my spirit, not just for my sake but also to be present with my clients and hold their angst as we navigated together the shared space. What has been the gift in this unimaginable year, I was asked. And I answered, “God come near”. My morning devotions and journal-prayer time had been waning. God called me by name. “Beloved,” he called to me, “come meet me in our own secluded sacred place where we be sit together”. “Breathe in. Breathe out.”was the action-mantra was the beginning of our daily tryst. Sometimes it was all for moments. Breathe in calm. Breathe out. Breathe in peace. Breath out. Breathe in just enough physical, emotional strength to move through another day. He always welcomes me with a loving look and a long embrace. I lean into him and bury my head in his shoulder. The we sit. It’s a hidden glen in the woods in Colorado back country. Sounds of woodland creatures and a trickling stream soothed my brain. I often rest my back against his heart and he whispers tender words and melodies. He makes me brave. He says, “Be still and know that I Am. Be. Be still. Know who I Am. Breathe in. Breathe out.” This is the gift of 2020 created just for me. Intimate compassionate life-giving love.

    1. Beautiful though painful, Kari. I know your words here will bless someone as well. And thank you for your encouragement and friendship. Your work and authenticity are crucial. Eugene

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