As I sat listening to a friend recount the details of his life, my heart struggled to respond. I had no interest in clichés. Stock answers were not appropriate to the specifics. In my heart and mind I could not find any anger or malice about the whys and specifics. My focus was on the individual. What could I say? Specifically, how could I let him know that Hope was present?
I do not have a universal answer. Life continues to remind me that situations are unique. Individuals experience life in a context shaped by the past and present that is personal. At best I could offer a pointer or reminder of something they have seen in part or in whole at some point in their journey. So far lessons that Life continues to leave with me include the following.
It is hard, likely impossible, to talk with conviction about something one has not experienced. David’s observations about his limitation are still true. “Until I entered the sanctuary of God, then I saw the whole picture.” (Psalm 73.17) Stated bluntly, if I am going to share Hope, I need to have at least one experience with it. If I am offering compassion, I need to recognize the gift and ideally what it feels like.
Knowing the answer is never enough. It is relatively easy to know what is ideal. Understanding when and how to share this with another is a mystery and art form that works best with the Spirit’s guidance. Life reminds me through a Yogi Berra paraphrase; friends and clients cannot hear what they cannot hear. Life continues with a reminder that just because I know the truth I do not have the right to force another to accept it.
Hope lives as I model the truth I know. It growth when I am open to more. Walking with others in Hope gifts them with the best of my life and opens me up to the best in theirs. Hope is more about a journey and a relationship than it is words.