Hope, hard thing!

seedling

Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise
You, jaded, let be; call off thoughts awhile
Elsewhere; leave comfort root-room; let joy size
At God knows when to God knows what; whose smile
‘s not wrung, see you; unforeseen times rather—as skies
Betweenpie mountains—lights a lovely mile.

These lines of Gerard Manley Hopkins, so kindly and calming, are like a balm for a tired soul – particularly the tired soul burdened with a fierce self-directed critical faculty. They come at the very close of his Sonnets of Desolation, or “Terrible Sonnets” – six sonnets which detail inner darkness and turmoil.   Altogether they seem to exemplify what a good friend in college once told me, that peace is sometimes hard-won.

“[W]e. . .exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope.”

I was all ears as the lector read this on Sunday, for being of a melancholy turn of mind one virtue I notably lack is hope.  So, to get to hope we start with. . .tribulation?

I took the confirmation name of Joan, for Joan of Arc, because even at sixteen I knew there were battles to be fought and that I needed the courage of a soldier.  And there have been battles, sometimes difficult ones; but I have learned two things, and what a difference the knowledge has made.

One is, that I am not alone.  Across the street, at the park, on the freeway, I am surrounded by brothers and sisters each with their own battles.  I root for them, and it makes the struggle easier, to know that all around me are others who have come from the same beginning and are going to the same end – I hope – and who struggle, sometimes mightily, too.

The other is that we have a captain who has seen every kind of battle fray and over whom no enemy can triumph; and who moreover loves and watches over all of his soldiers and desires that not one should be lost.

 

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