I have the honor of being part of a church plant team in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. As part of our strategy of intentional incarnation, all of the staff members are embracing a bi-vocational ministry approach, finding jobs that let us engage the community (while also focusing funds on the mission).
My part-time job? I am a substitute teacher. The question remains whether this choice is an act of stirring courage or blinding stupidity.
In my time as a substitute teacher, I’ve heard a lot of interesting things come out of students’ mouths. Most of which is followed by me saying, “Under no circumstance is it ever appropriate to use that word to describe anyone or anything.”
You can use your own creativity to fill in the blanks. On second thought, maybe you shouldn’t. Anyway, I’m sure your imagination would fall far short of what they can conjure up.
Not long ago, we watched a movie in an American Civil War class, starring Christendom’s Hollywood darling, Jim Caviezel. When his name rolled across the screen in the opening credits, I overheard the following exchange:
Student 1- “Jim Caviezel? Oh Lord.”
Student 2- “Literally.”
Just one of many tweet-worthy moments in the life of a church planter/substitute teacher.
So, you can understand my surprise when I hear something that grabs my heart– in a good way. In a recent class discussion about a short story, middle school students were describing the mood created by the author. One soft spoken, shaggy haired kid offered this assessment: “The story is tense, scary and dangerous all the way through. But even though you feel afraid, hope is always present.”
And there it is.
Ours is a theology of robust hope. It is the kind of hope that is always present, not merely an idea planted firmly in the future. Jesus takes what is future, what is far off, and drags it into the present. He buries it in us like a seed, waiting for the harvest. We may not see the flourishing right now, but it is there, taking root and stretching out in the soil of our souls.
Hope is present where we need it the most—in the thick of it, where the road closes in and the end seems cut off. The proudest moment of my life came on July 14, 2011, when my twin sons—Luke and Samuel—were born. Sarah and I waited and prayed for that moment. But several months before, we were afraid we had lost them. I will always remember what Sarah said in the middle of that fear and darkness. “I don’t know,” she said. “I just have this gut-feeling that it’s not over. But maybe that’s just hope.”