Recently, while reading the Daily Office, a line from the Letter to the Hebrews, really caught my attention:
“We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain.” Hebrews 6:19
I have never, ever, thought of hope as an anchor! An anchor is something that weighs you down, keeps you in place, doesn’t let you drift away. For me, hope has always been more along the lines of Emily Dickenson’s poem:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all…”
This idea of hope being an anchor really challenged me. What is the writer of Hebrews trying to say here? Well, maybe just that the soul can be easily unmoored, and perhaps what we would like to think of as hope, is really just wishful thinking and not hope at all. Maybe the writer is challenging us to go deeper in our hope.
So much of shallow wishful thinking ends up in disillusionment. We pin our hopes on thinly veiled desires : “nope, nothing can be done about my life, my problems because I didn’t win the lottery this week.” This leaves us feeling weak and disappointed. Hope is like a bird –but one that flew away!
Hope as an anchor for the soul, changes how we see ourselves and our surroundings. I am indebted to Spiritual writer Eugene Peterson for his transliteration of the same passage: “We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post.” (The Message)
We “grab on with both hands and never let go… to an unbreakable spiritual lifeline,” is the operative sentence here. The anchor doesn’t weigh us down, it gives us life!
Today as I daydream about summer vacations and far-away places, I’m glad to have happened upon the difference between wishful thinking and hope: one brings me closer to the heart of God, the other well…