I was talking with my friend the other day about her recent visit to The Imperial War Museum in London. She’d only managed to make a brief visit but the exhibition on The Holocaust had made a significant impression. We commented that only making a brief visit was perhaps not so bad, as the enormity and reality of what this museum tells us about humanities capacity to hurt each other could be completely overwhelming.
We went on to chat about how, despite its sombering nature, studying our darkest history is so important in order to help us change the future for the better. And yet we also felt a strong sense that despite opportunities to learn from our past, humanity has a tendency to repeat its mistakes. We could point to events taking place in the world and observe that aspects of it appear very similar to something that has gone on before. It can feel quite demoralising.
We had to remind ourselves that history, and ‘The News’ often doesn’t record, report or celebrate the positives of the human race to the same degree as the bad stuff. And yet it can be found, even admist such horrific accounts as that of The Holocaust can be found stories of hope, sacrifice, bravery and faith.
I’ve been reading Barak Obama’s book The Promised Land. It’s a fascinating, if somewhat heavy going, account of how Obama came to run for President and the background to decisions that he made whilst in office. There are some really inspiring sections but mostly it again fills me with a strong sense of frustration, sadness and even anger that humans from individual level to nation states can be so selfish, violent and lacking in grace. In the face of this the fact that God thinks we are worth not only worth saving but also embracing in a loving relationship is just mind boggling.
However, within ‘The Promised Land’ there is also a fantastic phrase that has really caught my attention. The phrase is actually the title of a previous book, and a major political speech that Barak Obama wrote before becoming president but is also clearly an important value statement for the way he approaches his life and work – ‘The Audacity of Hope’.
The title of ‘The Audacity of Hope’ was inspired by the theme of a sermon entitled the ‘The Audacity to Hope’ by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright who in turn was inspired by a painting called ‘Hope’ by G F Watts. In essence these three men have all drawn on the deep hope that comes from a relationship with Jesus, a hope that audaciously says that despite experiences that might suggest otherwise, God is worth of praise, there is good in the world and change for the better is possible. When you have the audacity to hope then you are lifted from despondency and are also empowered to start being part of that positivity in the world we all so long for.
An inspiration to many around the world, including myself is singer-songwriter Nightbirde. I’ve referenced her before in my post ‘Living Life to the Full.’ Despite battling stage 4 breast cancer and living through some very dark times she has wrestled with God and found Him gracious; she has found a hope that she now shares with millions. She says,
Some people will call it blind denial, but I prefer to call it Rebellious Hope!
I love this phrase, ‘Rebellious Hope’ and I can totally see Jesus shouting ‘Yes! Love this! Bring it on!’
I also love what has also become another Nightbirde slogan:
Don’t you want to see what happens when you don’t give up?
When we refuse to give up working for good, seeking the health, wealth and happiness of others, aiming for the best and simply doing the right thing then our own lives and world begin to transform. When we refuse to give up and act with rebellious hope collectively then the impact can be significant.
But this kind of rebellious audacious hope can only be sustained when it is fed from a deep well.
Another amazing lady called Jo Hargreaves talks about rebellious hope beautifully in this Instagram post:
Advent is the period of the year we are now in; the run up to Christmas. It’s a period of preparation and waiting for the day when we celebrate one of the most rebellious audacious moments of hope – God coming to live with us, born into a tumultuous world as a vulnerable baby called Jesus. Thirty three years later that audacious rebellion took a surprising twist as seemingly hope was crucified with Jesus in an act of horrific torture. And yet hope rose from the grave because the hope that is God cannot be kept down, it cannot killed or buried.
It is that same rebellious audacious hope in Jesus that Watts, Wright, Obama, Nightbirde, JoHargreaves and so many many others all draw their strength and joy from, that gives them the strength to dig deep when the ‘lie of hopelessness’ threatens to disempower and disengage them and find a wellspring of hope that spills out to others.
This Advent amidst all the busyness; amidst the onslaught of ‘bad news’ I urge you take time to find Jesus in the manager and discover a rebellious audacious hope that can lift your head and transform not only your life but other people’s lives through you.