Recently, I gave a talk to a local Mothers’ Group I am involved in. I was asked to speak on the topic of “Hope for the New Day.”
Hope in motherhood is sometimes in fairly short supply! In part, I suspect, that is because of the demands that motherhood places on us, and the anxieties that can go with them. In my researching, I stumbled across a quote by Jackie Kennedy Onassis, in which she said: “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.” As a mother, and as I talk to other mothers, it quickly becomes apparent that we have such deep desires for our children. We aren’t okay with doing a bad job. The stakes are high and we know it. As Jackie Kennedy says, none of us want to bungle raising our children. We add all this pressure to our mothering. We compare with others. We often feel like we are failing. Our hope is limited.
John Piper, in a sermon on hope, compares hope to a reservoir. Like a big man-made dam that holds drinking water for a town, it is vital to ensure that our hope is kept full. Piper explains that if we are put down or have negative comments come our way, we look to our hope reservoir to absorb the wrong thrown at us and return it with love. If our hope is lacking, we sink into self-pity or self-justification. In a similar way, if we experience a setback, we look to our hope reservoir to have the strength to keep going. Finally, if we are presented with a temptation, we look to our reservoir to resist the temptation and hold fast to what is right. In this analogy by Piper of hope as a reservoir, it become important then as to what is filling our “hope tank.”
In the Bible, one of my favourite stories is found in John 4:4-26, where Jesus speaks with the Samaritan woman at the well. In this story, this woman knows what it means to have a dry reservoir. She was born with the wrong nationality, and on top of this had a string of failed marriages and was living with a man who wasn’t her husband. All the women had outcast her and labelled her as used goods. So much so, that she tried to avoid them at all costs. This woman lived way before plumbing and so she had to head out to the well to get water for cooking and bathing, a job where daily she would come in contact with women who had shunned her.
Instead of going in the early morning or in the evening when it was cool to get water, this woman went in the middle of the day so that she could guarantee she wouldn’t run into any women. Could you imagine what this woman felt like? Here she wanted to avoid running into other women, that she took herself to the well in the day, making it a harder job.
One day, as the woman headed out to the well, she ran into a man at the well. She was surprised, not only because he was there and it was the middle of the day, but that he started to talk to her. He was a Jew and she was a Samaritan and they were culturally enemies. This Jewish man was Jesus. As he talked to her, he asked her for a drink from the well. Jesus knew that this woman had a chequered past, he also knew she was a Samaritan. None of that mattered to him. He looked at her and knew her reservoir of hope was dry.
Sometimes, I wonder whether women I meet are anything like her. We get so good at putting up a facade, that often we don’t reveal the “real” us to anyone else. No-one even gets a glimpse of our skeletons that we keep hidden away. The woman in John 4, it seems, had lived a life of disappointments, pouring the water of her hopes into a series of relationships that ended in grief or abandonment. Others of us try to fill up the reservoir with amazing mum photos on Facebook, healthy eating, great finances, getting kudos for brilliant children, popularity. But none of these tanks holds water permanently. They may feel good for a day or two, but then we are looking for the next thing.
Jesus told the woman that if she knew who he was, she would be asking him to fill her thirst for hope. Instead of offering this woman judgement and condemnation, he invited her into conversation, drawing her out and ultimately inviting her into an eternal relationship with him. This Samaritan woman was so amazed by her encounter with Jesus. Here was a man who looked at her and saw her for who she was—he knew her skeletons yet offered her salvation.
This woman is transformed. She goes back to town and seeks out men and women who she had been trying to avoid, inviting them to hear Jesus and have their lives changed too. This woman’s hope reservoir is filled to overflowing, and her hope pours out in love towards others, caring more about their futures than the way they had treated her in the past.
How is your hope this week? Have you stopped by the well of Jesus and drunk deeply? Have you marvelled at his word? Have you been challenged by his love and grace? Have you sought him above all else as the source of hope for your life?
In motherhood (or whatever season we are in), we need to remember that Jesus is the only reservoir of hope that lasts. He is the only life-giving water. As I enjoy decorating and renovating my home, watching a series on Netflix, eating a piece of chocolate or having a nice cup of tea, I need to remember the difference between pleasures I can enjoy in the moment and hope I can depend on for eternity. It is in Jesus and in relationship with Him only that I need to find my hope. When I spend time recharging this relationship, my reservoir of hope will overflow, affecting all my other relationships and giving me an eternal perspective that cannot be shaken.