Infused in the words we speak, imbued in the words we write, dripping in the words we think is something pulsating with direction and meaning. Writers call this something many names, none right or wrong. Just ways of describing our unique urge to use words when making sense of self, other, world, and God.
Writer Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew calls this something, “heartbeat.” Without a heartbeat, without this “internal engine” moving our words in all forms–spoken, written, and thought–into truth, our work falls from”mattering” in this world. (58)
This same author suggests ways of unearthing the heartbeats of our pieces. Exercises and practices designed to discover the emotions and subsequent behaviors brooding and bubbling beneath words’ surfaces. Last September I did many of these exercises for three articles and a book manuscript I was writing. In my journal on September 4, 2021, I wrote the
Hope in healing’s many ways. Hope gifted to us through the ancestors of faith. Hope in healing–God’s and humans. Hope in ourselves. Hope in our bodies. Hope in each other. Hope in God. Living, active hope is the heartbeat…
Yet left to wonder how and what defines hope. Various online dictionaries instruct me that hope permeates our lives as both a noun and verb. Linked (in either grammatical form) to trust, belief, and desire in what’s possible for the future.
Definitions lead me to scripture’s many versus speaking directly of hope while linking it to faith. Here are just three of so many.
I wait for the Lord; my soul waits, and in God’s word I hope; Psalm 130: 5
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
Theologian Andrew Purves connects hope with compassion especially in “the feeding stories” found in the Gospel of Mark. “Compassion,” he writes, is associated with “…the most profound human need for hope…” (25-27)
Again and again the Gospels show hope through the behavior of those needing feeding and healing. Hope meets or even at time collides with the compassion of Jesus. Think about the profound hope of the man with a skin disease in Mark 1: 40-42. Or the hemorrhaging woman willing to risk touching Jesus in Mark 5:25-34. Or the father in Mark 9: 14-29 bringing his non-verbal son through an argumentative crowd to see Jesus. In each story Jesus is willing to see the
hope of people whom others deem invisible and undeserving. In doing so Jesus aligns willingness with keeping awake and aware of others’ needs. (Mark 13:35) Jesus understands these needs in empathy and does something about them in compassion.
This hope in Jesus leads me to what mental health clinicians and researchers think. Many consider hope a skill, a good one to have. In other words, hope can be learned, practiced, and strengthened.
For Dr. Daniel Goleman, hope is more than “solace amid affliction.” Hope changes outcomes. He writes, “From the perspective of emotional intelligence, having hope means that one will not give in to overwhelming anxiety, a defeatist attitude, or depression in the face of difficult challenges or setbacks.” (86-87)
Based on some of the same research Goleman uses, Brené Brown writes, “…Hope is a combination of setting goals, having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them, and believing in our own abilities…Hope is learned!” (240)
We often categorize hope as an emotion. But really hope is a cognitive function. Something we can acquire and grow through observing others who are hopeful as well as practicing hopefulness. I also wonder if we are genetically primed to learn hope as a way of survival. Practicing hope then can be thought of as a life giving and sustaining spiritual practice.
Back to exploring my heart’s beat. About a month after the first heartbeat entry I again write about hope. “…Even in the depth of despair, I reach for hope eventually found in God through
scripture, through those who help, and through healers…[my writing projects] begin in the depths searching for hope.”
Scripture, dictionaries, mental health research, and writing exercises lead me to embrace the rhythm of hope as my heart’s beat. Hope in my own innate abilities to heal, hope in healers, hope in God, hope in my growing compassion for self, others, and the earth, hope in both the emotion and action of love, and hope in believing in what is possible despite all that surrounds me.
What is your heart’s beat?
Living Revision: A Writer’s Craft as Spiritual Practice by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew
Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ by Daniel Goleman
The Search for Compassion: Spirituality and Ministry by Andrew Purves