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Thursday, September 08, 2011

The weight of hope

I don't think of hope as a weighty substance. Perhaps courage has weight, or determination, or even passion. But hope sounds ephemeral, fleeting, insubstantial, tenuous. So the verses we read in prayer meeting this morning jumped out: we have this hope as an anchor (Heb 6). Last month we rode a traditional wooden dhow through the Indian ocean surf, anchoring off an island for lunch, and near a coral reef for snorkeling. The anchor involved was solid, barnacled, a definite substance, straining the muscles of our crew-man as he threw it over the side. The weight of it carried it down to the ocean floor, and our attachment to it held us in place. Instead of drifting with the tide we remained secure. We couldn't see the anchor anymore, but it did its work below the surface of the ocean.

So tonight I'm thinking more about the heaviness of hope. Hope as a solid, tangible thing, a thing of weight and drag, to hold onto, in the currents of life. A thing that pulls on our hearts steadily, unseen, keeping us from wandering, attaching us to the Rock.

In fact, I think hope weighs more than most of my patients do. Today Shunetra was discharged from the hospital. She came into this world precipitously a couple of months ago, less than two pounds. There was not much to anchor her to this world other than her mother's hope. I remember meeting her mother pre-delivery to explain what we could do in the nursery, she was admitted with life-threatening complications of pregnancy, and had to be delivered before both she and her baby died. She had no living children, this was her last chance. We gave the baby everything we could, but her prognosis looked soberingly grim, and I remember her mother's tears. But this lady also had hope, and one day I met a group of her friends who had come to pray through the nursery windows. Shunetra was not a star preemie. Most things that could go wrong, did. One night I was on call, and I spent hours in the NICU with her on a heated bed, giving her artificial breaths, hoping she would live. I hated to face her mother if she died, but I pretty much had resigned myself to that. After many attempts at reviving her, she was not really responding. So I prayed aloud with the nurses over her one last time, and said we will resuscitate her again, and if she doesn't start breathing, we will have to let her go. And then, miraculously, she did. All night, one hopeful breath after the other. That wasn't her last brush with death, she also had surgery on both knees for infections (she must be one of the tiniest ever in the orthopedic surgery theatre). But that mom's hope anchored Shunetra firmly to life, and she fought on and on, all the way up to a whopping four-plus pounds, ready to face the world outside.

Tonight hope, in my mind, weighs four pounds. And as I pray for my own kids I ask for this kind of hope to anchor their souls and mine. To be a tether in a choppy world where it is too easy to be pushed far out to sea, or thrown against the rocks. Compared to Shunetra they look amazingly solid, but in my heart I see the gaping future, the uncertainty, the danger. The desire for friendship, the quiet perseverance through hours of work, the plodding, the work of fitting in and making friends. And the imminence of each leaving this harbor, the nausea of being out in the wildness of the storm and holding on for dear life.

Let me stay anchored to hope.

1 comment:

Heidi said...

you AND me, sister. Been thinking a lot about the "H" word this year and this anchor picture puts some words to a whole mess of feelings...a heavy yet beautiful mess, maybe?