Looking for signs of hope:
Maple buds and brimming cups
by Ken Rummer
Look for signs of hope. The teachers of resilience offer this wisdom to the storm-tossed, the overwhelmed, the anxious. You may be way ahead of me here, but it’s advice I’m trying to take.
A couple of weeks ago—it was on a Monday—I was staring out the window during computer church at home. Has anyone else discovered that with online, prerecorded services, Sunday is no longer a use-it-or-lose-it worship opportunity?
Through the glass I saw the upper branches of our young maple tree, showing dark against a winter-gray sky. The signature red leaves had fallen, leaving the branches bare, except for a couple of curled and crusty hangers-on.
Then I noticed buds on every branch.
In those buds, the makings of next year’s leaves and tree flowers, tightly packed in tough casings, were hibernating before my eyes like bears in caves, unfazed by freezing temps and the forecast arrival of the third measurable snow of the season.
Unfazed is not the word I’d choose for myself these days.
I’m worried about the trajectory of the virus. Physical separation weighs on my heart. And every odd cough makes me wonder.
I hear the daily count of ICU beds in use. Church bells toll the COVID dead. And, though a vaccine is in view, pandemic end is not yet in sight.
I am definitely fazed.
But buds on bare branches—tiny vaults, crammed with good things to come, waiting for the spring day set on their time locks to arrive—those buds are a sign of hope for me.
Today, turning my attention from the maple to the Bible on the desk, I follow a nudge of memory to a verse from Romans, where the apostle asks God to fill readers with “joy and peace in believing” so that they may “abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13 NRSV).
Now abound is not a word we use everyday. To put it into a picture, I might explain it this way: abound is a glass being filled by a careless server. When the rising liquid reaches the rim, the waiter, perhaps distracted, doesn’t stop pouring, and the glass overflows, to the astonishment of the whole table.
Imagine having so much hope that it would fill us completely and overflow, splashing on those around us. But that is the gist of the prayer in Romans. And the possibility that God is still answering that prayer, pouring hope generously into our open glasses—well, that is another sign of hope for me.
Tonight I’m seeing something new outside our maple-view window. It’s a star, our first outside decoration of the season. Wrapped with space foil and festooned with LED bulbs, it hangs, not from the highest bough, but from the arch above the front porch.
To my eye, the light of that star is a twinkling testimony to hope. The budded hope that waits concealed in plain sight. The poured hope that fills and overflows.
Ken Rummer, a retired Presbyterian pastor, writes about life and faith from the middle of Iowa by the High Trestle Trail. Previous posts are available at: http://presbyterianmission.org/today/author/krummer