Choosing Hope

By Rev. Beth Rodenhouse  •  May 21, 2020

Mourning Loss

Wasn’t Mother’s Day strange? I couldn’t bring flowers to my mom. We couldn’t gather around the dinner table. I mourn the loss of family and group celebrations of important milestones, such as birthdays, graduations, weddings — even funerals.

Although I grieve those losses, I am grateful for some new blessings occurring as a result of the pandemic. In particular, I appreciate how relationships with coworkers have deepened. Facing the coronavirus together has strengthened and deepened work relationships. What do I mean?

Motherhood Is Optimism

One of the best parts of Mother’s Day was the group texts from my fellow managers at Pilgrim Manor retirement community. As if to make up for the fact that most of us were separated from our mothers and children, due to the coronavirus and the necessary social (I prefer physical) distancing to prevent its spread, we gave each other “Happy Mother’s Day” wishes and blessings. One manager texted a quote that has continued to speak to me: Gilda Radner wrote: “Motherhood is the biggest gamble in the world. It is the glorious life force. It’s huge and scary — it’s an act of infinite optimism.”

Where do I derive hope during the pandemic? Motherhood is an “act of infinite optimism.” For me, having children feels like one of my gifts to the world. These totally unique people bless the world in new ways. Having children also connected me to the future in new ways.

Thinking of Others

Before I had children, I admit I was quite the speed demon. I drove fast, as attested by a number of speeding tickets. But once my son Jacob was born, I slowed way down. Suddenly, I viewed my driving from a wider perspective of community and the future. My actions impacted not only my son’s future and mine but many others’ futures. Clearly, a growing-up moment for me.

But more than that, I feel connected to the future through them. I’ve always practiced recycling. I work hard to reduce my carbon footprint. I try to be a steward of the earth as God created us to be. But now, my commitments have more roots. Now, not only do I care about the earth for itself but also as the home of so many children and people.

In addition, our younger generations give me hope. Many of the youth in Grand Rapids Public Schools have chosen to use buses rather than buy cars to reduce carbon emissions. Many share a passion for social justice. Most of them share a major concern for global warming, just like Greta Thunberg, the 17-year-old Swedish climate activist who ignited a global movement against climate change. Younger generations passion for social justice and a firm commitment to the transformative power of kindness makes me hopeful.

Faith Gives Hope

Finally, my faith gives me hope. Faith in a good God. One of my favorite Bible passages is Jeremiah 29:11: “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 a hope and a future.” God spoke these words to Jeremiah after the Israelite people had been overrun by Babylon and forcibly exiled to Babylon. Their world felt like it had come to the end. But into their darkness and despair, God speaks a word of hope. Into our darkness and despair, God speaks a word of hope. The hope is none other than Jesus Christ. Because we belong to a resurrection God, we can have hope: “Nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39b)

Our times are dark. We despair. I never expected to live during a pandemic. But God’s life and love will see us through. That’s why I choose hope.

We flesh out our hope through commitments. During this pandemic, we practice physical distancing and mask wearing to ensure an end to the pandemic and hope for the future for all of us. What choices have you made during the pandemic that bring you hope?


About the Author

Rev. Beth Rodenhouse

Rev. Beth Rodenhouse served in parish ministry for eight years and chaplaincy for five years. She currently serves as chaplain at Pilgrim Manor, a United Church Homes community in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is part of the ministry of the United Church of Christ.

View all articles by Rev. Beth Rodenhouse