Island of Hope
Have you ever stepped out into a place in life which felt dangerous and cut off from anything safe and good? Have you ever had to make a difficult decision which impacted lives and potentially threatened everything you held dear? There are crisis times in life and crises don’t always involve weighty matters. Sometimes the tiniest little thing can be a crisis for us and we feel like it’s just us versus it.
When a crisis develops, we step into it with our emotions and our actions. Even if we try to avoid the crisis, it inevitably surrounds us with its threat. Either way, by dealing with a crisis by decision and action, or denying the whole thing, we find that it becomes our entire focus. Nothing else much matters. All our attention is on the problem and what it might mean for us. It started with us standing on firm ground looking out at the crisis but now, rather suddenly, we are in the middle of the crisis, with the security of land far away. The crisis engulfs us and the ground beneath our feet seems certain to be overtaken. The island gets smaller and smaller as our fears get larger and larger.
Crises are seductive. They draw us in and easily consume our attention. Some of the lessons we have learned in life are forgotten in crises. We give more power to the problem we face than to solutions to the crisis. Our fears magnify the crisis and we imagine the pain to be more permanent than it actually is. Our perspective shrinks and we get paralyzed. The crisis gets bigger. Serenity gets smaller.
As the chaos looms and we begin to look only at the tiny bit of ground that is holding us up, something shifts. Eventually the crisis, with all its uncontrollable layers, forces us to look more closely to home. We realize we can only do so much and that forms a new sort of energy. The ground we’re standing on, small as it has become, is holding us up. We are being sustained somehow. We start to look less at what worse lies ahead, more to the little bit of good that is helping us. We narrow our focus and think more about the serenity that is available than the chaos that may overtake us.
With that shift in perspective comes a new spark of hope. Freedom emerges. The little piece of ground shows itself to be firmer than we imagined. The island of fear moves to become an island of hope. We begin to see some options we had forgotten. We let go of the chaotic seas around us and look more to the island beneath us. We take some deep breaths and find the air cleansing. We even discover some beauty on the island that we hadn’t seen before.
As we let go of that which is beyond our control, we more wisely see what we can control. Our perspective adjusts and the threatening waters come to be more a reminder of how we have been sustained, less a threat of what could destroy us. This, we realize, is the real wonder of life. Crises remind us that, in the midst of the dangerous world, we are ultimately safe. Crises help us admit our primal fears and recognize a cosmic grace.
Awareness is a key practice in crises. Marking what we are afraid of and what we stand to lose helps us eventually see what is given to us. Faith is deepened by acknowledging the fears rather than pretending they’re not there. Admitting we need some help comes out of awareness. As we take stock, we recognize our limitations, thereby opening the door for support. Crises, as frightening as they are, always reveal a surrounding grace. We weren’t alone before the threat and we’re not alone amidst the threat.
As vast as the waters may seem, the island of hope is beneath our feet. The ground is secure. Grace is good enough. Crises lead to faith. And faith reveals goodness. Stand in that hope. We are freer than we ever imagined because we are held by that which is good, Christ Jesus himself.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.