When hope Disappoints?

Today is Palm Sunday. Hopefully you will all have the chance to declare “Hosanna, in the Highest” if you attend church today. I remember as a teen going to church with my grandma. On Palm Sunday we would all get a small cross made from a piece of palm. The vicar would lead his small congregation in a procession around the outside of the church. As we marched, every now and then we would hold our palms up high and proclaim “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”. This is definitely one of the most intriguing memories I have from my early search for God.

Palm Sunday is such an exciting tradition, we get to join the crowds that met Jesus as he prepared to enter Jerusalem before Passover. He was there out of obedience to his Father, knowing that there was nothing but trouble awaiting him once he entered the city. I wonder how it felt for him to look at the cheering crowds – those enthusiastic men, women, and children lavishing him with a king’s welcome. The hope-ometer was very high. They had seen miraculous healings, signs, and wonders. Jesus had stood up to demons for them – casting them out in the same way that an older brother might roll up his sleeves and knock-down a neighborhood bully. Jesus preached the presence of the Kingdom of God in their midst… it was theirs for the taking. Being so conscious of all the messianic prophecies, Jesus must have known (even as he received their praise) they would all fall away.

Learning not to Hope

To be perfectly honest, I’m not even sure I would have been a part of the crowd that day. I suffer from… disappointment. Without getting too personal, we’ll just say that my early childhood taught me the lesson that it’s easier on the heart not to let my hopes get too high. Tempering hope is one way to battle against the extreme pain of disappointment. Hopes dashed. Love lost. The constant reminder that if anything good was going to happen, it was going to be the fruit of my own effort. I could trust no one else to look out for my tender heart. This, of course, is how over-achievers are made.

There are, however, some good things about this coping method. Because hope and expectations are often linked, I’m fairly easy to please. I have no illusion that life is going to be perfect. My husband can attest to the fact that if there is a “worst-case scenario”, I’ve already predicted and planned for it. Of course, the down-side is that I miss out on some of the joy that comes with anticipation. For example, when we took our boys to Disneyland a couple of years ago, I didn’t crack a smile until we were actually in the air flying to California. I wasn’t going to let some last minute travel glitch dash the little bit of hope I had for my boys’ and my first trip to the Magic Kingdom. I calmly figured I’d celebrate when I could see the whites of Mickey’s eyes.

After many years of counseling and the healing love of my very dear husband, I guess I can say I’m in recovery. And because I’m recovering from disappointment, when I read the Holy Week/Passion accounts in the gospels I find them particularly uncomfortable. You see, I’m anticipating the extreme disappointment of the people. On Sunday, they thought a new era was on the horizon. Yet, by Friday afternoon, the King of the Jews was nailed to a tree. Cursed of men. Rejected.

Defending the Heart

One of my biggest sources of disappointment was waiting for my dad to come visit me on “his” weekend. I was ten years old and living with my grandparents at the time. My dad had actually fought for custody rights for the first time in 7 years. He did not win custody, but was granted weekend visitation rights twice a month. It seemed to me that a whole new era of paternal relationship was on the horizon and my hopes were very high. Then, sadly, every other Saturday morning I would stare out the window. I would spend hours looking down the long country road that passed in front of my grandmother’s house, waiting to see my father’s car on the horizon. For some reason, though he fought the battle to be in my life, he had a hard time actually bringing me into his. Even with phone call reminders and promises made, I think he only came to see me once or twice. Eventually I grew embarrassed with myself that I even expected him to come. I stopped waiting, only indulging my hope every now and then with a quick glance up the road. I adopted the attitude that he was missing out, not me. I had other things to do with my time. My grandma couldn’t stand to watch my heart break and called the whole thing off. My father didn’t turn out to be the person I had hoped he would be.

I have a feeling that the crowds of people calling out Jesus’ name must have felt the same pain. They waved branches to a triumphant Messiah, only to find out that he was just another man by the end of the week. Maybe the defiant mutterings of the teachers of the law were right. How could he let us treat him like a king? How cruel. How deflating. I’ll never hope again.

Seems to me, that if a person is going to put up a fight for someone else, they should have the guts to see it through to the end. What gives, Jesus? Why go to the trouble if you just plan on leaving our hearts in our hands? What about you, Dad?

And so, we wait for an answer.

Palm Cross photo by Colin Patterson on Flick’r. http://flic.kr/p/4yvGHH