Hope is often perceived as a word of the future (in fact, last week's post took up that theme). But I wonder what it looks like when we view our past with hope? There are things that we’ve done which have caused true harm, and that we regret deeply. I heard once that people don’t remember much about their middle school years precisely because it is so painful. We want to forget the stupid choices we made back then, because we don’t dare hope that what we did can be reconciled with who we are now.
In Christianity there is a strong emphasis on forgiveness. That is to say, that what we have done in the past will not be held against us. We will be released from the guilt, if not always the consequences, of our action. But sometimes forgiveness falls short. And here again, Christianity offers an answer – grace-filled redemption, the belief that good will come from our mistakes.
I remember several months ago I was writing down my top values. One of them was “grace for learning.” In my failures, of which there are bound to be many, I hope that grace will be offered. If I am trying the best that I can, I hope that my mistakes will be taken up and formed into something beautiful.
There is a strand of Christianity that sees sin as inevitable, but also as a means of putting God’s grace on display. Julian of Norwich, in her Divine Revelation, says that God “considers sin to be the sorrow and suffering of those who love him and out of love he does not blame them... And so shame will be turned into glory and greater joy; for our generous Lord does not want his servants to despair because they fall into sin often or grievously; our falling does not prevent him from loving us.”
These words echo those of Paul, who in writing to the Romans says, "And I know, that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him." (Rom 8:28) They remind us that nothing is outside of the purview and power of God to be transformed. As Joseph says to his brothers, who sold him into Egpyt, "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good." (Genesis 50:20)
Recently I came upon this poem by Spanish poet Antonio Machado. The dream is an “error” only because it is not literally true, but the grace it shows is marvelous indeed. How it nurtures my soul to hope that those golden bees are nothing less than the loving Spirit of a loving God, adamant in making good out of my life’s mistakes.
Last Night as I was Sleeping
Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt - marvelous error! -
that I had a beehive here
inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.