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Justin Ryan Boyer

Hope is a Dangerous Thing

When you travel so much in a given time frame you tend to pick up a few things. You learn exactly how fast to walk going the wrong way on a moving sidewalk to stay in the same place. You learn not to show off your coolness on the tram by doing the nonchalant counter lean against the pole because, even though the maps say the track is a loop, the tram doesn't always go the way you think, and instead you end up exposing your dorkiness as you fumble down the tramcar. You also gain a certain appreciation, unfortunately, for the initial smell once inside the plane -- that mixture of stale air, grandma's basement and whiff-of-butt; it's a smell that lets you know that you are one step closer to where you want to be.

My wife and I were going to my best man's wedding, cross-country, to perform some music and celebrate their union. I was glad that my buddy was getting married, but more excited about being back home and spending some time with him as his single-hood hours counted down. A morning hike was planned for a few guys the day of the wedding, where there would no doubt be both jesting toward and praying for the groom to be. It was on top of the mountains looking over the valley that I wanted to give my best man his gift -- a nice looking flask (for sentimental and decorative purposes only, I assure you) with some proverbs engraved on it -- and bless him into his newest life-long adventure. It was going to be good to be around those who I had history with again.

We arrived at the airport around 4:30 a.m. and regrettably didn't leave until 1 a.m. the next morning. After a flight cancellation, a delay that led to another cancellation, multiple run-arounds searching for correct information and 12 hours in an airport, I wasn't sure if I was dreaming or was part of some hidden camera show. I felt like I was walking backwards on the moving sidewalk, traveling but not really going anywhere...and I was losing hope.

I thought about hope a lot that weekend -- both grasping onto it for dear life and wondering what its true meaning was. Hope is a middle child, either being caught in the shadow of faith as the tag along that can't find its identity by itself, or being overlooked as love gets the attention, spotlight, and glory. Even in church I remember hearing many sermons and teachings on faith and love, but can't recall any on hope as the other pillar of a life fully lived.

Hope, or the lack thereof, even the delay of a promise, can be so devastating. At one point in the trip after the first cancellation and a six hour lay-over, we actually boarded the next flight, slept for a good twenty minutes and then were told we had to get off the plane while a mechanical problem was being looked at. That cancellation hurt more than the previous, not because it was the second in a string of disappointments, but because the hope that I was on my way to see my friends was built up once I stepped onto the plane, and to step backwards, off the plane, stripped hope and made me heartsick. After a while, when hope doesn't get its way, it dies. It doesn't turn the other cheek like love nor keep on trusting and believing like faith.

I was first struck by the dangers of hope while watching one of my all-time favorite movies, The Shawshank Redemption. In Shawshank, the character simply called "Red" appears to be afraid of hope through most of the film. "Hope is a dangerous thing," he says. "Hope can drive a man insane." I think he was afraid, like most of us, about the risk in hope...the possible failure and letdown, the bi-polar effect of it going from life-giving to life-stripping.

Even though hope is for something in the future, it dramatically affects how we live and interact right here in the now if we latch on to it. Hope makes pain, suffering, and general crappiness, not necessarily better, but at the very least bearable. Hope is a sustainer that pulls us through the times when faith seems to fail. But it's not a passive waiting, it's an active one, one with expectation that brings some type of mysterious joy for a promise to come. Hope births desire; it is an activator that does not allow us to sit on our butts. If hope is lost, the present is lost and life becomes stiff and stale and turns into a series of just-another days.

We finally got to our destination 22 hours after we were scheduled, and to the wedding, in our same clothes because our luggage was also misplaced, a mere 10 minutes before it started. The wedding was great and we were able to enjoy friends and family, albeit for a short time. Even though we classified it as the "trip from hell" as we dealt with frustrations, tears, and jet lag, it wasn't as bad for me as I wanted my friends to think it was. I'm a doer, and at one point in the layovers a thought came that maybe this was God's way of slowing me down; maybe I needed to be stuck in a waiting period, maybe I needed to just lounge around in an airport with my wife for hours on end, maybe I needed to just listen to the small voice of God more. And this whole ordeal made me think deeper about something that I had passed over before because it was just Sunday schooling. It made me realize that my hope in God was lacking in my life, and since realizing this, I have been looking to the sky more often with expectation.

Hope redeemed, a prisoner set free, like Red back in Shawshank. On the way to see an old friend, he thinks to himself: "I find myself so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it is the excitement only a free man can feel...I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend, and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope." May we find and cling to a hope that is just as sincere; one that will not only restore the future but lighten today as well.

©2008 by Justin Ryan Boyer

Justin Ryan Boyer enjoys music, redemption, adventure, contemplation, random creativity, and traveling with his wife, Naomi. He is managing editor of a home-grown group blog.

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