Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hope's Feathers

Emily Dickinson

When I hear the word "hope," my mind flits immediately to the wee poem by Emily Dickinson. When I first became ill with my now chronic conditions, my daughter copied the poem and illustrated it as a birthday gift, and it hangs on the wall in my prayer corner where I reread it often while I meditate and pray.

The poem is the frame in the upper right....

The poem defines the concept of hope with simple but profound imagery--the hallmark of Dickinson's genius:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

This image of hope, a shy bird perching in my soul, is encouraging. As the last stanza remarks, hope asks nothing of us, but, as the center stanza illustrates, it sings its sweetest in the midst of powerful storms that can rock us to our very hearts' cores, soul-deep, but still is heard despite circumstance, distance, loneliness, and unfamiliar surroundings.

And, as the first stanza asserts, hope "never stops at all." Hope "never stops at all." How emphatic Dickinson phrases this last line of the first stanza! Hope stops never, at all? One of these emphatic words would have been sufficient to express hope's persistence, but both? How reassuring!

As Saint Paul wrote in his epistle to the Church in Rome:

"For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience" (Romans 8:24-25, ESV).

So we wait, being watchful and thankful, for our hope to be realized. And where is our hope placed? In Him who walked this earth incarnate, wafting hope in His midst wherever He spoke, taught, healed, advised, prayed, praised, transfigured...suffered, died, and rose again.

Our hope can only be in the One who lived hope for us, and in whose hope we walk, each and every day, whether we recognize him as Christ our Lord or not.

So let us hope together, for faith, hope, and love are braided together, intertwined with knots of grace. And, of course, "the greatest of these is Love."

With love for the One who first loved us, who brings us His hope,

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