As the children climbed the stairs they kept finding more candy on each floor. Their hopes grew brighter each time. Then they reached the top floor.
The newlyweds set off on their honeymoon with great anticipation of the weeks and years to come. They discovered new things about each other and enjoyed new activities together. Then there was too much work, too many bills, too many affairs. Divorce papers were written and signed.
The explorers uncovered the mysteries of the jungles, mountains, oceans, and skies. Then they discovered that there was nothing left to discover.
Did you feel that all of these examples built you up only to drop you with a thud?
What happens to hope when a pattern ends?
As we consider eternity, we must consider its patterns. They must progress to infinity or we will be stuck under a ceiling blocking our achievement. It really doesn't matter how low or high is the ceiling. When the possibility of something better ends, hope evaporates and boredom begins. What does a mountain climber do when he climbs the last mountain? What does anyone do when the yellow brick road leads to a yellow brick wall?
Why does hope need eternity? Why does hope need progressive, not static, patterns?
Hope is future oriented. When a better future disappears, hope must also disappear. Either the future stops or it goes on endlessly.
When athletes plateau, they try something else. When people face mid-life crises, they look elsewhere. When we are stuck in a rut, others try to encourage us with new possibilities. After explorers map a territory, they move on to new mysteries.
But what do we do with eternity in a limited universe with limited progressive patterns? What do we do when progress hits the ceiling and there is no way to break through? Such a situation is hard to imagine from here, but a trillion years from now when we hit that ceiling, then eternity is going to look very boring, very bleak. The apparently endless day that started with an inspiring sunrise now retires into a dim, unending twilight.
When progress ends, hope ends. When growth and improvement in one area are exhausted, then we need a gateway to new areas with new potential. That is the way hope works. That is the only way hope works. Hope is not static. It is not a dull routine. It is not even a dull good routine. Hope reaches out and up and forward. It grasps the dreams and possibilities of the infinite future and climbs the heights of wonderful.
Hope is not mere variety. It is not being stuck in a good relationship with good people doing the same collection of good things over and over again. No matter how large the set of activities, eternity is a long time and will exhaust all bucket lists. No matter how large the palette of paint, infinite time will drain all colors of vibrancy. Even with a million things to do, eternity guarantees that we will inevitably say about all of them, "Been there. Done that."
We need predictability for faith, but we also need the wonder, mystery, and newness of progressive patterns so our hope can continually burn brighter.
Can hope survive without something new?
Hope is not based on just a varied pattern. It springs from a progressive pattern. It is based on variety with the element of new growth, and that growth must be meaningful to the human heart.
For example, we teach our children to make their breakfast by pouring milk on cereal. When they become more capable, we teach them how to make sandwiches, then entire meals. Our hope burns bright as we watch their talents grow. Finally, at some point, we expect them to be creative without us, to be more than robotic chefs following our recipes.
Life and eternity is not just about making bigger meals. It is also about learning how to serve and share meals with others to help make and grow friendships — personal interactions. Our talents lack meaning when focused on our own selfish pleasure, but meaning and pleasure blossom as we contribute to the growth of others who then contribute back to us. Meaningful growth is the basis of eternal hope.
Without meaningful growth, our stories become stale and repetitive. They lose significance when they lose progressiveness. It is like being in the same coffee shop telling the same jokes year after year because we have run out of purpose. And, sooner or later, this must happen whenever we are dealing with something less than infinity.
Why is “really big” not enough for hope?
Real hope sees no walls, only the dreams beyond the horizon. Finiteness is the killer of hope because it puts boundaries on possibilities and potentials. Even if the prison fence is a light year away, the fact of the fence puts an end to hope. Prisoners are hopeful only when they have prospect of release. Endless hope feels no limits, because there are no limits.
Patterns need to be not only predictable, like a wide straight road with no potholes, but they also need to be progressive, like a road climbing a mountain. Patterns need to be full of the growth that is the sign of life and vitality. The road is not only to be a good, safe road, but it is to lead through and to places that become more wonderful through the years. Hope travels towards an infinite destination and revels in the upward journey. Anything less, anything limited, anything that ends, destroys hope, sooner or later.
In your words:
What gives you hope for tomorrow, next week, next year, next life? Is it better to tell someone to have hope or to show them a progressive pattern?