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Hope Deferred

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

How much hope have you deferred in the last year? I know many of your stories; some who put off their wedding celebrations, those who have been waiting for surgery, and many who have delayed family visits. There are jobs that were never started and memorial services that were missed. There were milestones that did not get acknowledged and dreams that have not yet materialized.  Vacation plans, professional ambitions and personal goals--large and small--were all put on hold for a year, and some did not survive.

I sat with my daughter yesterday as she finally put to words what it has felt like to be a high school senior this year. She described having looked forward to being in the big sister role to underclassmen and getting to take on more responsibility with many of her extra-curricular activities. There were tears over the relationships that were lost as well as those never made.  The idea of everyone parting ways for college without having forged the bonds of enduring SATs, application season, and finals together or making memories at prom, grad night and even classes together is crushing to her.

What is even more crushing to me is that my baby girl finds it hard to imagine celebrating again after all this time of restraint.  She, like so many of us, has become familiar with being heart sick, and she is not sure how to live freely again.  She took an important step in the right direction as she started to grieve yesterday.  Naming and feeling our losses are critical to moving through them and into a new season.  As I shared with her, it does not matter how small or silly the loss might be to someone else, if it matters to you then that grief will stick with you until you acknowledge the feeling.  Moreover, your losses are important to God simply because they matter to you (see Psalm 56:8).

Like my daughter, almost all of us aware of the realities in that old proverb, "hope deferred makes the heart sick," but what about the second part of the verse:
"...but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."

A tree of life! The thing about a tree is that it is both alive and gives life. A tree provides shelter and shade and food to the critters around it. And a tree pumps out oxygen that gives life to us. Trees go through changes in each season, but they remain. We can see the signs that the difficult season is coming to an end, like the first spring buds on a tree, now that restrictions are lifted and lives begin to resume.  For many of us that means a longing is fulfilled and so it is time to reconsider what it is to be alive and life-giving.

What have you longed for?  How has what you longed for in this season helped you to understand who and what is most important to you? Are there relationships that you want to spend more time nurturing? Perhaps you are in search of new goals or you connected with a new purpose during the pandemic. It could be that you were glad to get a break from some of the extra people or activities in your life.  Or maybe not much has changed, but you still are anxious for a new season to begin.

Several years ago, I became acquainted with the writings of Christian author and speaker Sheridan Voysey. His book on resilience and his hope-filled blogs and seminars have been life-giving to so many along the journey to starting again. He has a worksheet about finding a new dream that I have found particularly helpful.  In fact, I have shared it with couples who want to feel more connected, with friends facing major lifestyle changes, and with individuals as they near the end of counseling.  I have used it myself a few times as life has shifted. The questions he asks might be helpful in this season as we evaluate how we each want to live and to give life now that the longing for this pandemic to end is being fulfilled.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12

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