Hope Is Not Always Logical

So, I was reading an interview with Rachel Held Evans, and got stuck on this comment: hope is not always logical.

This was predicated upon 1 Peter 3:15, where we are exhorted to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” And I was struck by this verse, like I have never read it before.

I have spent so much of my time listening to people give me answers to questions about doctrine, as though the Bible somehow needs a defense lawyer. And I’ve spent plenty of time defending my beliefs, as though logic is the only thing that matters. When, in reality, that’s not at all what we’re supposed to do – we’re supposed to give reasons for our hope, not our beliefs.  Two different things.

Christianity has a long history of believing some truly outrageous propositions. Polygamy, slavery, subjugation of women, our planet the center of the universe – the list goes on and on. But Christianity has never been about doctrine; it’s about grace, redemption, and hope.

I’m over here hanging on by my fingernails to a tiny shred of hope, when all around me, well-meaning Christians are answering the wrong questions. Don’t tell me why I am doctrinally wrong. Tell me why you have hope.

I’ll tell you why I have hope: Jesus resurrected.

There is no logic in that hope, no concrete proof, nothing beyond a quiet prayer in the night that it was real.

The Day It All Began

Well, it wasn’t actually that day. Looking back now, I can see that it all began at lot earlier. But one fine Spring day in a classroom at a small university in West Texas, I got my first taste of what it feels like to be rejected for one’s faith.

At a staunch Southern Baptist college, I had one radical professor who insisted we read the Bible with new eyes, like we had never been exposed to it before. Mind you, he was talking to a room full of life-long Christians, most (if not all) raised in strict, conservative evangelical homes. We had been memorizing scripture since before we could write. And this doctor of theology wanted us to read the New Testament without preconceived notions, to think for ourselves for the first time in our lives.

I was secretly thrilled for the challenge. So I did. Or at least, I tried.

It was in classroom discussion later in the semester, that I opened my mouth and uttered an interpretation that differed wildly from everything any of us had ever been taught. And the looks I got were some of the angriest I have yet encountered.

Several of my friends refused to speak with me. Some for nearly a month. It rocked my little world in such a way, that I never again criticized the accepted doctrine while attending university. At least not while the critics were listening, and only vaguely, tangentially when in the company of my dearest friends.

And for the next fifteen years, I towed the doctrinal line in public, and harbored doubts and questions in private. Until a couple years ago, when the exhaustion of all that deceit finally got to me, when I was maligned and judged by people who had no real insight into my life or my faith. When a casual comment revealed months of hurtful gossip, and I walked away.

I have mentioned before that I am not an open book. My internal workings, thoughts, hopes, and dreams are not on public display to be perused, discussed, judged, and dismissed. I developed the art of concealment in response to well-meaning Christians who behaved as though transparency was a requirement rather than an option. And I learned long ago, in that fateful classroom, that to avoid the pain of rejection and judgement, I had to keep my big questions, doubts, and ideas to myself.

It is thanks to dear friends like the Agnostic Pentecostal, and new-found sojourners like Rachel Held Evans, that I hold some semblance of hope that I can work out this faith and all its questions. And maybe this time, just maybe, I won’t be rejected. Maybe I’m not actually wrong for seeing the world differently. Maybe I’ll be ok.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost