Have you ever seen the movie, "Crazy, Stupid Love?" If not, don't rush out to rent it. (No, seriously don't.) I've had the unfortunate experience of watching this movie, and while I really didn't enjoy it (nor could I recommend it for many, many reasons) I was struck by the main theme of the movie -that love, while both crazy, and stupid, is something so good it's worth fighting for. It's worth doing big, over-the-top, insane gestures to show someone how much you care. To shout to the world, "I love this person, and I'm never going to stop!"
That's how I think every Christian should feel about hope.
For a very long time in my Christian life, I was afraid to "pray big." Sure, I heard lots of sermons about, and if you'd asked me I would have surely replied, "Sure, we have a big God, why shouldn't our prayers be big?"
But I never did it.
Some of it was laziness, and a faire amount of immaturity, too. But I think the biggest reason was fear. I was scared! What if I prayed big, and God didn't come through? I'd have to face disappointment (and we all know how much American culture hates disappointment. Thanks, childhood "participation trophies.")
If I told others about my big prayer, then I'd have to face embarrassment. I'd have to look people in the eye who knew that my prayer wasn't answered, and surely they'd think I was now a big loser instead of a big pray-er
Maybe worst, I'd have to face God. And not the loving, squishy, huggable, cotton-candy-sugar-coated God that America has so enthusiastically endorsed. The God who says "not yet." The God who says "no." The God who is not my personal vending machine, and has plans that far outstrip and outweigh anything I could dream up to ask Him.
That's the part I couldn't face. So for years, and years, and years I didn't.
Then, last year, I interned with Cru, and suddenly I had thousands of dollars of monthly support to raise in just 3 months, and I found myself saddled with a big prayer that I was being forced to pray.
And I'm sad to admit, that I often didn't pray. And when I did, I prayed with weak, anxious, doubting faith. Faith so thin and so tentative, it was hardly a wisp. But God honored that faith, and on the day of my deadline I found myself inexplicably at 100% of my goal, having raised about 60% in the very last 10 days.
I wish I could say that that experience once-and-for-all cured my wimpy, scared faith and that from that day forward I only ever prayed big, confident prayers.
But God is so sweet and kind in the ways that He orchestrates our lives to teach us what we need to learn!
And that's how i found myself, several months ago, almost exactly a year after God fulfilled my first "big prayer", offering up a tearful prayer in the car with my husband.
We were returning home from a weekend of support appointments, and the burning that had been in my gut all weekend finally spilled out of my mouth. "ClayIThinkWeNeedToChangeOurFaithGoalToPrayToFinishOurSupportByJanuary1st." I swear, it all came out in one breath like that.
To my surprise (chagrin? dismay? despair?) he did't protest, but agreed. Crap. I didn't want to pray to change our date to be done in 5 months instead of 9. But somehow, I was. Big, fat, reluctant tears rolled down my face as we prayed.
Behind us, a wall of dark, angry clouds chased our car, hurling the occasional bolt of lightening or crack of thunder at the passing interstate. I felt as if the clouds reflected my the storm of my anxious heart, and only my furious prayers would propel me forward fast enough to avoid them overwhelming me.
I still feel like that.
Every day, I wake up, put my feet on the floor, and say some serious prayers to propel me beyond the angry storms of my doubt and fear. I don't always stay ahead, but I'm never inside them for long.
And that, I think, is hope. Christian hope. The confident hope that comes from knowing that our prayers are heard by a God who cares so intimately about us that he not only formed us in the womb by His hand, but sent his own son to pay for our purposeful rebellion!
That our prayers are heard by a God who has made a million promises, and never once not fulfilled a single one.
That our big, giant, enormous prayers are heard and answered by an even bigger, more giant, more enormous God, and that everything we ask, He is more than able to answer.
That's why I'm not afraid to pray that we'll be at 100% of our support by January 1st, as impossible as it seems. Because He's a big God, and my prayer is really not that big in comparison to that. I'm willing to risk disappointment, embarrassment, and even facing a God who says "no." Because I know that God really never says just "no," but always says "No, but better." And I can confidently and expectantly hope in that.
Crazy. Stupid. Hope.