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Don't tear your clothes in your grief; instead, tear your hearts. -The Lord
Satan laughed with delight the day the music died. -Don Mclean
I could no more stop dreaming than I could make them all come true. -David Wilcox
Glare hits my windshield as I drive away from church. I turn the corner, and my heart sinks. I'm driving away with the same flat spirit. I am grateful for my church-searched long for it-so this little corner of God's people can't be responsible for my malaise. What I'm going through is an all-too-familiar struggle these days, though. Where is my passion? Where is my exuberance, my winsomeness? I am not feeling terribly lovely these days; I can't seem to find a settled sense of beauty. I pass the downtown area and look to the mountains, and they prompt a sudden smile. They stimulate a moment of deep desire and gratitude. I realize this moment is the first time this morning I have been awakened.
I scan through my memories of the morning's happenings, wondering again what it was that started the gnawing at the fringes of my spirit. Was it the conversations at church, which feltpredictably rushed? Was it the pleas for more involvement, structured around duty and commitment, going to meetings and catching up on activities? Was it the sermon, instructing us on how to live a life that honors God? Whatever it was, the gnawing is happening again. I am tired. I can't put my finger on what is wrong, but rather than leaving refreshed, I am leaving weary. The morning was filled with lots of movement but little stimulus of soul.
It wasn't always this way. The exuberance of my early days in the knowledge of Christ's love for me lingers in my heart. Everything was new and about Him. Colors were vibrant; music pierced me easily; my heart was tender. I was overwhelmed with the awe of being forgiven; there seemed to be an endless supply of energy of heart to pour into others. My eyes were open to all that was lost. In the truest sense, I was more female than I had ever been. I had been awakened, and He had awakened me. As I glance at the snowcapped peak through my car window, I remember those days with sweet longing.
Being awakened by God, sought out by His relentless love despite our wandering, is the heartbeat of Christianity. For a woman, God's pursuit opens places long locked away, places not remembered since childhood. We respond to His advances with the heart of a child, and we live them out on this path called womanhood. Yet something gets lost in the translation. I'm not sure where we've lost it, but as women, we have lost our innocence and our desire.
Most women can think of at least a few moments from their innocence when all felt right with the world, moments before weariness crept in to steal their exuberance. Consider one little girl:
The carpet feels warm underneath the dining room table as she lazily rolls over. Her six-year-old eyes take in the dust specks floating through the sun streaming from the window to her little refuge. She is completely at rest, her mind freely wandering from a conversation with a neighborhood kitten to dreams of her birthday party. Her heart is a vast open place of dreaming, of knights and princes, horses and castles, lakes and sunshine, laughter and love. Her senses remember favorite meadows, bareback horse rides, velvet dresses, willow-tree branches. She hums a tune as she envisions her hero-she can see herself completely abandoned to the pursuit of the knight who comes to release her from her castle. She is beautiful, and she waits for him. She is well occupied as she waits. He will come. She waits for her daddy to be done with his work so she can run into his strong arms. She knows what it is she waits for. She is happy and content to do so; she knows she is not forgotten.
She is every girl. Not every girl knows freedom to this degree; not every girl has a father worthy of such trust-but every woman carries inside her an echo of this winsome spirit.
Why is it just an echo? And why is this echo not resounding, increasing, expanding in the hearts of women who know the love of Christ? We are far more disciplined than we are at rest, far more committed than winsome, far more "nice" than passionate, far more dutiful than free. Far more weary than filled with hope.
How do some women carry their winsome spirit into their adult years despite the jolts and disappointments of life? How is their girlish dreaming transformed into the rich whimsy of a woman's heart? How do they become visionary women, not limited by naïveté and not paralyzed by fantasy? And how do they live above and in the midst of a frenzied church culture that does not seem to stir their hearts?
Six months have passed since she lost the baby. The calendar turns over to another year. She pauses in the hallway by the room that would have been a nursery-now a makeshift office for her husband. They aren't sure how to plan. She weeps a bit, talks with a friend on the phone for a while, then heads into the kitchen to prepare dinner. I'm tempted to hope she will remind herself that time heals all wounds. But more, I find myself drawn to the tenderness of her grief.
She's been with him for twelve years now. As she crawls into bed, trying not to disturb him, she recognizes an ache she often pushes away. She always thought there would be more than this. She's not unhappy. She can't complain. But she feels as though she's been lost somehow, especially in the last year as pressures have mounted and worries about the kids have increased. She pauses for a moment in the dark silence, not knowing what to do with the gnawing emptiness in her heart. I'm tempted to hope she pushes away the ache. But I want more for her too.
She has fought the aggressive brain tumor for two years now. Her husband and daughter have looked on as pain and confusion have wracked her body and mind. "It's not about the cancer," she says to me. "To be consumed with God is all that matters." I'm tempted not to trust her words. But more, I am silenced.
She can feel it happening again. The clerk looked right past her, almost as if she had no face. She needs assistance, so she reaches out to summon the clerk, who is startled to find her there. She wonders again if she'd have to labor so hard at a routine task if she were of a different color. I'm tempted to tell her we all know prejudice. But more, I'm sorry for the blindness.
She heads to the community discussion group with ambivalence. She has come to love these people, all so diverse. They challenge her thinking and her spirituality and her convictions, and she loves the opportunity to let them in on the things that make her tick. They are all married, and she is alone. She feels the familiar twinge shoot through her soul as she thinks of engaging in another community event in a world of couples. I'm tempted to tell her to rise above it, but I understand her ache.
How is it these women have not become hardened? How have their delicate passions not been crushed? How have they continued to live with an openness to other people without discounting or discrediting their own heart's journey? How have they become women who give of their presence without saying a word? Why do I long to be like them?
It is hard-moving into life while carrying around an unmet hope or desire. There is not a woman alive who does not on some level feel the reality of heartache. The dreams born in our girlish wonder pull at the fringes of our hearts, but we push them away as frivolous, impractical, and foolish. How do we live and continue to give of ourselves-honestly, not out of duty but freely-in the midst of feeling a gnawing sense of incompleteness? The apostle Paul said so clearly, "Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13, NIV). How do we continue to genuinely love those around us in the midst of our own disappointments? I would suggest that love in a woman's heart comes from her level of responsiveness to the hope within her. Hope remembers things lost and envisions things not yet known. Responding to hope causes an ache that doesn't go away.
"Dear Aunt Jan," the card began.
I really miss you. As soon as I got this card, I started writing. Even in the car. Sometimes, when I listen to soft music, or just sit somewhere wandering off into space, I think of you. I cry until something happens. Now I almost know I'll live in Colorado or New Mexico, because I just can't live without you.
Created in the freedom of an eight-year-old boy's heart, these words have come to represent more than just gushes from a cherished nephew. These words are a picture of hope, a monument to the fact that having an open heart is possible. Every time I pull this card from its sacred place in my drawer, I'm haunted by the ongoing fight in my own life to keep such a posture of openness. The cynical crust that spreads over my own soul is exposed as I hear the abandon in Andrew's heart.
My nephew's card unwittingly reveals the timeless truth from The Little Prince: "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is most important is invisible to the eye." It reveals, too, Jesus' eternal imperative: "The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these" (Mark 10:14). The card embodies what it is to live out of the heart, completely abandoned, unashamed, and open. This is what hope looks like. Words like pure, open, and vulnerable, and words like passion, devotion, and honesty come to mind as a child's heart is heard.
So, why do we hesitate to live with such a childlike, open posture? Forgive such an obvious question. It is because we suffer. Each one of us can recall the moment when the childlike, open posture gave way to fear, disbelief, or disillusionment. Or perhaps we understand that living with childlike faith brings the subtle ache that does not go away. The groaning comes from unlimited vision of what could be. Andrew's ability to overwhelm me with his tenderness came directly out of his ache-his ache for me, his vision for our times together, even his dreaming of the western terrain of Colorado or New Mexico.
So, what can we, as women, learn from this fledgling young man? There is an insatiability to a child's soul that reflects the truth that there is always more to discover, always more to dream about. It is rare that we have to remind a child to want more. It is a child's innocence that allows her to open wide the doors of the heart. It is innocence that allows hope. It is life and suffering that birth the ache. There is a groaning to hope the minute innocence is lost.
When did the cards we write turn from whimsy to practicality? When did openheartedness turn to skittishness and timidity? What was being whispered to us as these changes occurred?
As I've spoken to countless women, I've been struck with the words they come up with when asked to think of hope: anticipation, renewal, expectation, motivation, trust, promise, excitement. Frankly, we are cowards. Are those descriptions of hope? Absolutely these are threads within hope's fabric. But words like groaning, yearning, birth pain, anguish, doubt, and struggle don't immediately come to mind. Why? As women, we know these realities intimately. We know what it is to wait. We wait for Daddy's hug. We feel the junior-high anticipation as the phone rings-will it be him? We live through nine months of worrying and praying for all to be well with our baby. We wait for our daughter to come home from the prom, wondering how her heart has been handled. We quietly question whether there is enough loveliness in us to keep others engaged with our hearts.
These realities are intrinsic to the nature of hope and woven into the fabric of our souls as women. Hope cannot be separated from its gut realities. We think of hope as something "out there" that we either find or lose. The reality is, hope is something that rises up inside of us with a gentle strength that requires a response. We either respond to it with our hearts or we try to push it down. Responding to it brings a deepened sense of thirst, a deepened ache. Responding to it reminds us of what it truly means to be a woman. Trying to push it down is another story altogether. Notice I said "trying" to push it down. Hope is tenacious. Hope always finds us again.
The apostle Paul reminded a group of Christians in Rome that keeping the childlike heart of hope was ... well, glorious.
You should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. You should behave instead like God's very own children, adopted into his family-calling him "Father, dear Father." For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God's children. And since we are his children, we will share his treasure, for everything God gives to his Son, Christ, is ours, too. (Romans 8:15-17, emphasis added)
What confidence. What quiet trust. But then Paul takes us to a more difficult place: "But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering" (verse 17). And then he takes us to the place where childlike whimsy and mature hope collide. It is a place of anticipation, desire, and yearning:
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, everything on earth was subjected to God's curse. All creation anticipates the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children, including the new bodies he has promised us. Now that we are saved, we eagerly look forward to this freedom. For if you already have something, you don't need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don't have yet, we must wait patiently and confidently.
And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don't even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. (Romans 8:18-26, emphasis added)
Groaning. The groaning of unsatisfied hearts that long for more. The eighth chapter of Romans paints a clear picture of our groaning. We are described as being in the throes of childbirth, waiting and pushing, anguishing, languishing, the only comfort being the thought that the process will end with the revelation of Christ one day. So, why do we structure our conversations and worship services in a way that denies the reality of suffering?
As I write this, my friend Lori is in labor. Her baby has a mind of her own (she'll surely be a fiery redhead like her mother!) and has been overdue for a week. Lori has been in the hospital since yesterday, and they just induced. Talk about groaning. I just got off the phone with her husband, who is in the birthing room with her. He sounds absolutely wiped out, and the process hasn't even really begun yet. He said, "I've never felt more helpless in all my life. I'm sitting here watching Lori in pain, and there's nothing I can do to help." Hang in there, Matt. It will all be worth it.
Excerpted from The Allure of Hope by Jan Meyers Copyright © 2001 by Jan Meyers. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
2. The Path of Hovering
3. The Path of Clamoring
4. The Foolish Path of Hope
5. Boredom and Bread
6. Daily Desire
7. Yearning for Heaven
8. Our Lover's Eyes
9. Compassion - The Memory of Splendor
10. Tender Perseverance
11. Sweet Revenge
Posted November 24, 2004
A rare book! I am skeptical about Christian books, but The Allure of Hope was honest, thoughtful and referenced many thinkers who have influenced me. I was challenged and softened by this book.
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Posted November 19, 2004
The Allure of Hope is a book I've gone back to over the past few years - I just finished reading it for the third time - each time it holds something new for my heart. I found Jan's writing engaging and fresh. I read the review stating that it tries too hard to be wild at heart with a grin, because the two books were released the same year (it is a book with its own message).
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Posted June 10, 2004
This book tries too hard to be a 'Wild at Heart' for women. Frankly, I got more out of reading Wild at Heart, even though it's written for men! Sadly, her writing is unpolished and could use a good editor. Some of her insights are good, and I know people who loved this book. But I'm certainly not one of them!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 4, 2002
Jan Meyers writes using the most vivid word pictures I've ever seen. This truly is the best book for women I've ever read. John Eldredge's forward tells it all... finally a book he can recommend to women! The Allure of Hope is an amazing 'new' perspective on God's love, longing, and pursuit of us!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 17, 2001
Any woman who has a longing to be seen as intoxicatingly lovely must read this book. Jan writes about a Lover we are all looking for; one who sees that our loveliness is intoxicating, that our heart is full and substantial, and one who is drawn to know us. The author reminds us of something we have always hoped for but never believed could really be true--that we are deeply enjoyable, and that our strongest desires and passions are not too much for this Lover. Resting in the love of this Lover enables us to fully and courageously give our unique, alluring hearts in love to the people in the alleyways of life. This Lover can't wait to shelter us and release us to flourish! Needless to say, this is not just another book to collect dust on your shelf!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.