Sunday, November 21, 2010

Finding the Future

by Jenny

I’ve been reading a book for my pastoral care class called “Hope,” by Andrew Lester. It seems obvious that hope is something everyone needs; yet as the book says, it is something that is often not addressed in caring for others. He talks about attending to the “future tense” of our lives, which is a necessary part of hope. For many people who are suffering, the issue is not just the painful thing that happened in the past, but how that trauma disrupts a person’s envisioned future. To help people heal, the author suggests, we need to help people see that their future story is still a possibility, or help them to imagine a new future.

I have several friends who have gone through divorce recently. One of them is watching her second marriage fall apart. She told me that what devastates her most is that now her dream of raising her child in a nuclear family with both biological parents living together can never happen. Her envisioned future has been shattered. How can we help people like her imagine a new future, a good future?

Again, I am reminded of my Jeremiah class. Last week we talked about the famous verse, 29:11, that is often on graduation cards: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Sure, this can be comforting to someone in a normal life transition who faces some future uncertainties. But its real impact comes in recognizing that this exhortation was written to people in exile. They had hit rock bottom. Their envisioned future was crushed, and this promise didn’t mean they were going back to their beloved homeland. God promised to give them a new future, right where they were, in exile. Out of tragedy and destruction, God imagines a new future for us, even when we can’t.

As pastors, leaders, and Christians, I think our role is to help people who hurt imagine a new future in which the pain of their past experience is not the last word; a future that may not looked like they imagined, but still fulfills some of their core longings.

Last year, the pastor that I had ministered with for a year in Mexico City passed away unexpectedly from cancer. His wife, only about 45 years old, grieved the loss of her husband and ministry partner. What still inspires me is that instead of thinking that the ministry they had built ended with her husband’s death, she took over as pastor. Perhaps she never saw herself in this role, but with God’s guidance, she is able to continue the vision she shared with her husband and do the one thing he would have wanted her to do: keep sharing the Good News that God redeems our disrupted futures.


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