Indulge me for a bit here.
I’ve been trying to figure out why the news of a possible blood clot has affected me as it has—well, of course, other than the obvious reason, that having a blood clot in the inferior vena cava is not something to ignore. I get that. I can even adjust to that; I am taking my medicine and going for blood tests and praying that this thing quickly dissolves or disappears.
What I’ve felt since last Friday, however, is deep sadness, grieving almost, as if I have lost something I wanted. Why is that?
In the past few days, I’ve been thinking about the words expect and hope. Here’s where the indulgence from the first line comes in because I’ve approached the topic as the English teacher I am.
I expected things to proceed according to a more normal process once I finished the six chemo treatments. I expected to resume my regular routine or at least my routine before my diagnosis. I expected to feel better and to be able to catch up on all of the dropped balls in my life over the last six-plus months. I expected no surprises with my health. In fact, I expected things that no one can expect. I must also say that I expected more than I hoped. I was so confident in the outcome that I didn’t feel that I had to hope.
Yesterday I looked up the difference between the words expect and hope. One of the first things I noticed was that I expect something but that I hope in or for something. To an English teacher, that’s a significant difference. I (doer) expect (active verb) something—the something is the receiver of the action I did by expecting. On the other hand, I can only hope in or for something—there is no receiver for the action, just one who hopes (a doer).
I lost you, I know. I’m sorry. Maybe it would be clearer if I were writing on a white board but, then again, maybe not.
Then I found a neat distinction concerning four words on a ESL website. The words are wait, expect, hope, and look forward to. Here’s the breakdown:
- wait: to remain without moving until something happens that you expect; a physical action
- expect: to assume that something will happen because it is reasonable or likely; a mental action
- hope: to feel that a desire will be fulfilled; an emotional reaction
- look forward to: to think pleasurably about something in the future; a combination of physical, mental, and emotional actions
I know how to wait; life and motherhood have taught me many lessons about waiting. I also know how to look forward; my life has been blessed by looking forward to many things.
Where I get into trouble is with expect and hope because I mix those words up all too often. My hope merges into my expectations. It’s easier for me to think about what I expect because I believe that I have control or at least the illusion of control. It’s harder to hope because I have to give up even the illusion of control.
Hope is completely outside my control. I can hope my almost-empty fuel tank will fire enough drops of gasoline to get me to the gas station. I can hope that my hair will grow back in one week. I can hope that my family will always be safe and happy. I can hope that my life after cancer treatment will quickly return to normal. The deal is that hope comes with no guaranteed results, even when I expect hope to be different this time.
Emily Dickinson’s poem Hope is the thing with feathers comes to my mind (of course, it would!): “Hope is the thing with feathers/that perches in the soul/and sings the tune without the words/and never stops at all.” Hope is joyful and unending and causes the soul to take flight. Hope is unpredictable and unexpected and unanticipated. In the words of the apostle Paul, “Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?” (Romans 8:24).
I keep forgetting that I control nothing and that the Lord is in complete control of everything. I confuse what I can expect (not much at all other than what is true about God) and why I can hope (He is faithful to His promises). Almost every time I expect to control my life, I end up disappointed. Every single time I hope in His love for me and His promise to draw me to Himself, I always receive a full measure of His grace.
Therefore, I will wait patiently, and I will expect His presence even when I can’t feel it. I will hope in His mercy, and I will look forward to the healing that I know will come on whatever side of heaven He has written in the book of my life.
You may not realize that I write these posts for myself to help me accept that God is present in the details of my every day. He is, and I am reminded of that incredible truth whenever I struggle with words to write in this space. Ah, but when I finish, I feel at peace with whatever issue I had in the beginning. I guess that’s the miracle of hope.