There are certain combos that are unbeatable. It’s like when you go to the movies and you have to get a bucket of popcorn. I know, you have to take out a small loan just to get the popcorn, not to mention the Coke Icee that goes with it but totally worth it in the long run. The two experiences just go together; movies and popcorn.
How about Tex Mex food and frozen margaritas? I know, I’m a pastor and I shouldn’t speak of such things but I’m pretty sure God Himself put that combo together. The best.
Here’s another one, peanut butter and chocolate. I mean, come on, does it get any better than a Reeses Peanut Butter cup? My bad, you’re right. A Reeses with a glass of milk is the only way to beat that. Also a winning combination.
I’m a comic book nerd so I have to mention Batman and Robin here. I like to think of this combo in terms of the 1960s TV show. The movie versions lack the cheese necessary to pull off lines like: “Holy contributing to the delinquency of minors Batman!” Never before or since have I seen fight choreography or actual dance choreography as magnificent as the dynamic duo themselves. This is perfection in its campiest sense.
One more combo. How about a really good book and a cup of coffee? I know, some of you aren’t coffee fans but you can substitute tea if that works better for you. There are few things that I love more than sitting down with a good book and drinking a hot cup of coffee in my favorite mug. Yes, I have a favorite mug.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been discussing this idea that hope is a rare but important resource in the world we are currently living in. The real problem with that is that we are all exhausted. Worse than that, we are all tired of hoping. We’ve learned the hard way that just when we think things have hit rock bottom, something else happens that knocks our legs out from under us. If we are not careful, it can feel like we are falling down a bottomless pit, with no end in sight.
Oddly enough, it is in this moment when we need hope the most. A simple way to look at hope is “the expectation of something good.”
There are a few things that I have incorporated into my own life that have helped with this. Last time we talked about keeping the big picture in mind. For me, that means having faith and an understanding that my life is headed somewhere. I believe that I was created on purpose with a purpose.
There is another practice that has helped me in hopeless times, but this time, it is a combo. It is the “Peanut butter and chocolate” of hope. I like to call them divine optimism and new creation imagination.
Divine Optimism. This is an outlook on life that is positive but it also includes a heavy dose of reality. It takes into account the terrible things that are happening in our world and doesn’t mislabel them or say that they are okay.
There is a great passage in the Old Testament that says “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20) We sometimes, unintentionally call things that are terrible “God’s plan”. I think we need to be really careful about that. There are horrific tragedies in this world and I don’t believe that God is the root cause of them. He is with us in those tragedies, but He didn’t make them happen.
You may be thinking, “This sounds a lot more like cynicism that optimism” but I haven’t gotten to that part yet. I just want to make it clear that “divine optimism” doesn’t glaze over the impossible situations some of us face. It includes and integrates that into hope. It trusts that God is capable of getting us out of our current circumstances even if the path that He chooses isn’t our preferred method. Even if He doesn’t deliver us at all.
Divine optimism is trusting God despite our circumstances and continuing to have a positive view of the world around us and the people in it.
It tells us that there is always a next step to take, even when we feel like we are falling in a bottomless pit. We can put one foot in front of the other and expect God to be there to catch us when we trip. Divine Optimism also believes that despite some of the awful things people say and do, they can still change. The same goes for you too. Regardless of your past and your impossible present, it is possible that you can change as well.
The reason we can expect this is because of God’s character and what He has already done in our lives. If you are a person of faith, you can look back on where you have been and where you currently are and you see His fingerprints on everything.
New Creation Imagination. This is where things start getting good. We are now adding chocolate to the peanut butter here. New Creation Imagination stems from Divine Optimism. It not only believes that change is possible, it is actively engaged in that process. It imagines, and sometimes reimagines, a better future even when a better future seems unattainable. This idea comes from a passage in 2 Corinthians. Paul writes:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
If we are new creations in Jesus, it would stand to reason that we are full of creativity and the ability to create new paths. New creations create new pathways. These pathways can lead us to a better future.
It turns out that our view of the future is key in determining what the future actually looks like. Sometimes our future is a self fulfilling prophecy that we had a part in shaping. If we believe that this world is going to hell in a hand basket, it probably will.
However, If we can imagine a different outcome, and work toward that dream, maybe it could look different. It is the perfect cocktail of expecting good, believing that change is possible and then working toward that change. This change doesn’t happen overnight and in fact, it is usually by taking small steps over time that this happens. This is why many people give up and look for a quick fix. Doing good over a long period of time, otherwise known as faithfulness, doesn’t sound as sexy as overnight success.
However, if you can engage in what some have called a “holy imagination”, you begin to see things that others can’t. I am not talking about hallucinating or even a pipe dream here. I am saying that you can envision a future that is possible and you feel equipped to handle that particular issue.
New Creation Imagination uses unconventional tools to forge a new path. Those tools are “faith, hope and love” (1 Cor 13:13).
There is no alternative. Plowing over people and demolishing others verbally, does not come from faith, hope or love. Creating an “us vs them” argument and trying to convince others why they are wrong and you are right is a different path as well. Creating lies and conspiracy theories or embracing them, is not a pathway to a new future. It takes us backwards. And backwards is where hopelessness lives.
When you use faith, hope and love to build a better future, you bring dreams to life and direction for people who desperately need it.
When you mix Divine Optimism with New Creation Imagination, hope is a natural outcome, if you stick with it.
Once you see progress in the vision of the future that you have, its exciting! When progress occurs, it makes you excited about the next project you are working on or the next phone call you have to make.
Waking up in the morning has a whole new feel to it. You aren’t staying up late with dread, afraid of what the world will hand you tomorrow. You begin to understand that you don’t have to be handed anything. Each day begins with an air of excitement or at least anticipation of what you will offer your friends, family and neighbors.
This new creation that you are a part of, is paving the way for a new future that is hopeful.
You have to believe that this new future will not be attainable unless you begin to build toward it.
Our future isn’t something that happens to us, it’s something that happens with us.
If you combine Divine Optimism with a New Creation Imagination, you have a dynamic duo…minus the choreographed fight scene or dance number. Or not, it’s up to you. It’s your future.
Looking forward to talking to you next week.