My husband called this evening when he was on his way to Grady Hospital to be on call. He was looking at a long night ahead of him, but there was no hint of self-pity or “man, this stinks working all day and then having to be up all night away from you guys.”
Instead, he listened to pitiful me. I tried to be upbeat, but my mood was as gloomy as the grey weather in Georgia today.
I started yammering on about some of the challenges I’d faced during the day – bad nausea, a clingy baby, a man glaring at me at Mass when Rae released a happy but deafening squeal during the Gospel reading. Then I started talking politics. I shouldn’t have gone there, but I couldn’t help it. This subject has me on edge lately.
“I just don’t understand why so many Americans think a man with a socialist agenda will be good for our country,” said the little bluebird of sunshine (me).
Mr. Optimist (my husband) agreed, but then he said something I needed to hear. “They can take your money. They can take some of your freedoms away, but they [as in a big, fat, power-hungry government] can’t keep you from living a happy, fulfilling life.”
He’s right. The only one who can take that away from me is me by wallowing in worry or self-pity, by giving up, by losing hope.
Earlier this week a friend of mine invited me to an evening of reflection. The theme was the virtue of hope, something I regret to admit is in short supply in my life for various reasons – a biggie being this difficult election season.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
“Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. ‘Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.’
The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men’s activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity.” (CCC 1817-1818)
During his talk on hope, the priest reminded us to not put our trust in material things, things that change constantly like money, like the shifting agendas of politicians (Father did not mention the latter, but I mentally added it as he spoke). Instead, we must put our hope in God, who is always constant and never changes.
Father went on to talk about some of the things Pope Benedict has been discussing during the current Scripture Synod. The pope urged that we must change the way we look at things, how we too often conclude that only matter and things we can touch are reality when, in fact, Christ is the only true reality. We have to raise ourselves to a spiritual level that lasts beyond things that are changing. Pope Benedict said that whoever builds their life on material things – wealth, success, appearance, etc. – is building on sand. But if we build our lives on love and on serving God and others, then we are building on rock.
I’m afraid that lately I’ve been building the foundation of my life on shifting sand. I hear dismal forecasts about what will happen if a radical pro-choice candidate is elected. How many more women will be hurt by abortion and babies killed? And what about if we move to socialized medicine or if we live under a government that coercively “redistributes the wealth” as it sees fit? How can a nation that was built upon personal freedom and the responsibility that comes with it be so precariously close to becoming a socialist society where responsibility is unnecessary (the government makes your decisions for you), freedoms are lost, and diligence and hard work are punished? (My media diet obviously doesn’t include much mainstream media since they’re busy crowning the anointed one). I start to worry. I feel hopeless. I become bitter (in fact, I’m starting to sound bitter right now).
But where’s my faith? Where’s my trust in God? Why am I not being buoyed by the virtue of hope?
Shortly after 9-11, a friend of mine asked me if I was afraid of bringing children into such a frightening world. Back then, my “house” must have been standing firmly on a rock foundation because I remember explaining that I sometimes worried about the future but that I also knew that if I raised children who knew, love, and trusted God, they would have nothing to fear and would find happiness no matter what happened.
Nothing has changed since then except perhaps where I’m placing too much of my hope. Truth is, I don’t have much hope in politicians (on either side of the fence) these days. But I have not and will not lose hope in my God.
There are no guarantees this election season except for one. No matter who ends up in office God is still the big honcho. He’s the one in charge. He’s the one who won’t let me down. He’s the one who gives me the gift of hope, and He’s the one who will allow me to live that happy, fulfilling life that my husband reminded me is no one’s except my own for the taking.