Monday, November 5, 2012

The Tree of Life

In preparation for this blog entry I spent ten minutes brainstorming any and all of the things I hope for. Here are a few items from the beginning of my list:
                I hope…
·         I finish all my homework tonight.
·         I get high grades on all the tests I have this week.
·         I find a job soon so I don’t go broke.  
·         the winners of the upcoming election are able to lead the country down path that conforms to the will of God.
·         my roommate’s senior voice recital goes well this Friday.
·         I’m not overloaded by my class schedule next semester.
·         I lower my mile times.
·         the Lord continues to reveal his truth to me.
·         I can visit New York City over winter break.  
·         my sister maintains her spiritual integrity as she goes through high school.
·         my nieces stay healthy and develop hearts for the Lord.
·         my best friend transfers to Olivet.
·         the golf team qualifies for Nationals.

As you can probably tell, most of these items are related to the near future. Indeed, my list started with my immediate hopes and gradually became more long-term oriented as I progressed through the brainstorming exercise. As I reflected on my list I realized that whether or not my hopes were short or long-term, whether or not my hopes were even attainable, they all had some connection to my overall lifetime objectives, my ultimate desires. For example, my hope that my roommate does well in her recital reflects my overall desire to see the people I care for be successful with their talents- that God may use them to bring glory to his name. And my hope of lowering my mile times reflects my overall desire to be a fit individual. Essentially what I am getting at is this: the pursuit of our short-term hopes is a means to achieving our most sought-after selves, surroundings, and relationships.  

In the spirit of tomorrow’s big election, I am choosing to study this concept further through various political campaign material and historical references. The following ads are from the 1984, 2008, and 2012 presidential elections, respectively. And just for fun, I’ve included a scene from the Hunger Games that may also prove insightful. 

In each of the three campaign videos above, the featured candidate is attempting to evoke positive emotion from the viewer by painting a future that looks exactly how we want it to. Inspiring themes of family, community, unity, strength, honor, and “the American dream” are woven throughout all three videos. These themes are the ultimate desires of most every American. Our short-term fulfillment of such desires is found in electing a president for four years, hoping he (or, one day, she) will make a lasting impact. Obviously, hope is the central emotion driving the above ads’ success. The more hope we feel watching one candidate’s utopia as opposed to another’s, the more likely we are to vote for them. Just look at how Reagan won in 1984: 525 electoral votes to 13. “It’s Morning Again in America” definitely influenced that result. And this is just one example of the power of hope. I mean, Obama won the last election thanks in (large) part to the slogan, “Hope and Change”. I would go so far as to argue that hope is more powerful than fear in determining our decisions, politically and beyond. In fact, hope “is the only thing stronger than fear,” according to President Snow. 

Furthermore, the Bible tells us that “three things will last forever- faith, hope, and love” (1 Corinthians 13:13) Fear is not a part of that list; it is escapable and defeatable, unlike hope. As I discovered through my little brainstorming activity, even my smallest hopes point to my greatest desires, and I hold on tight to each small hope because it could potentially lead me to the final gratification. Proverbs 13:12 says it perfectly: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.” In other words, we may hope for something so strongly it pains our hearts, but life can be found when that hope is finally realized.

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