I just love it when God wakes me up with a song on my heart, inspiring me to put my attentions on heavenly things before I even put my feet on the floor. Things like hope.
When I was in the third grade I auditioned for the school talent show. I had only been taking piano lessons for two years when my piano teacher gave me my first piece of sheet music: Whispering Hope. I not only learned to move my undersized fingers over those ebony and ivory keys, making some pretty sweet music in the process, but the constant repetition of practice and patience left the words to this hauntingly beautiful old hymn forever engraved on my heart.
Whispering Hope was written way back in 1868 by Septimus Winner. I listened to a few versions sung by various artists on Youtube with the volume turned up on my computer and plugs stuffed tight in my ears. Even without hearing all the words I still shed a few tears because the melody itself is just that beautiful.
I like Willie Nelson’s version of this old song the best. He sung it on his album The TroubleMaker in 1976, the year I graduated high school. Being hearing impaired, I didn’t own a lot of records and albums and I didn’t listen to the radio much because I couldn’t understand speech through sound waves mixed with static and electricity coming through a portable radio-stereo combo. I had no idea Whispering Hope was even on anyone’s mind the year of our nation’s bicentennial. Up until last week, I hadn’t thought about it in several decades myself.
But last Wednesday morning, in that place between dreaming and awakening, the words rang true. There the message descended from heaven with a promise. There I lay while silent tears flowed freely and my spirit sung silently along with angels. God whispered hope into the quiet place of my heart and soul and, in the silence, spoke loud and clear.
How I needed me some hope.
I volunteer at the Pregnancy Care Center just two hours a week. I mentor. One on one. Side by side. Face to face I sit with women desperate for hope. Stuck in cycles of defeat. Poverty. Loneliness. Brokenness.
Some weeks I wonder what in the world I have to offer these women? What difference am I possibly making in their lives one measly hour of my seven-day week? Who am I to think I can understand anything of their world? Or speak anything of value into their broken lives? And yet…I can’t help myself. I go back. Week after week, I give them the only thing I know that will save them. I give them Jesus. I open the pages of God’s Word and I give them truth.
I whisper hope.
It’s the only thing I have to offer. The only thing of value. The only understanding I need. Because I know that without hope there is no light in the darkness, no purpose in the pain.
A few weeks ago I sat on a comfortable little couch in a comfortable little room and I listened as one of these precious young women told me through tears that she’s angry, she’s frustrated, she’s confused…at God. The God who says He loves her, values her, and protects her allowed her four-month old baby daughter to die. Her weak little heart was just too sick to keep blood flowing through her delicate frame.
There is nothing comfortable about this. How do I explain when I’ve never known this kind of pain? How do I help her grieve when I’ve never known this kind of sorrow? How, God? How do I get into this brokenness?
So I do the only thing my heart says do…I weep. I get on my knees before her, I take her hands in mine and I cry. I pray. I look into her eyes and I plead…answer me truthfully, can you still believe even now, that God loves you? With tears of her own she whispers, yes.
Together we talk Truth. We read Psalm 23 and somehow…someway…God allows me to walk through this valley of death with her. I can see Hope speak into her broken spirit through the voice of the Good Shepherd. I tell her to let Him lead her to greener pastures, to allow Him to sit with her beside still waters. I tell her she may not believe it at this very moment, but He will restore her soul. One day. I tell her one day…she will heal.
Somehow…someway…I want to walk this journey with women desperately in need of a Savior. I don’t want my heart to become hard or cold or insensitive. Sometimes I need to remember the pain of the present that I might never forget the hope of the future.
I realize that even when I think I have nothing to offer, I do. My heart really does know brokenness. Maybe not the kind that speaks to physical poverty or the loss of a child, but I have been broken. I have grieved the loss of an eye, I have lived in cycles of personal defeat, I have experienced poverty of soul and spirit. This I understand. This I know. This I share.
Truthfully, without this hope I’d go crazy. Hope that this life is not all there is. Hope that even though I live in a broken world, surrounded by broken people, I am certain there is a God in heaven. I am certain there is life in Christ. I am certain His love is as real as the beat of my heart. I am certain that He weeps with those whose tears are their only food, whose cries are their only speech, whose prayers are their only sustenance.
It’s in this poverty of soul and spirit that Jesus whispers the only thing that He can…Hope. It’s in this place that my heart overflows with the blessed peace of His presence. My ears ring with the blessed truth of His words. My eyes water with the blessed comfort of His tears.
And because I believe it, my voice whispers back…back into the heart of a young woman who dares to hope. It’s the only thing I know to do.
“…we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us…” Hebrews 6: 18b-20a
Willie Nelson/ Whispering Hope on http://youtu.be/-Q2AGSq6s94
Whispering hope, oh how welcome thy voice…making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.