Once in the 1990s while I lived with my father and we struggled unsuccessfully to keep a large house clean without the attentions of a woman, he said to me in exasperation, “It just feels like we are always camping.” As I looked at the cluttered kitchen counter and the table in the breakfast nook, the comment described our situation with depressing accuracy, and it has resonated with me ever since in a way that I am sure that he did not intend.
These days when I look at a similarly cluttered kitchen or a bedroom strewn with clothes or a closet packed with boxes, the hum of the metaphor which is always an undercurrent grows again in intensity. The peaceful settledness that a clean and orderly home can create in my soul is elusive and evaporates, and the twins of entropy and ennui reappear as the vision of whatever it was for which I cleaned my house begins to fade away. It is almost as if I engage in a sort of performance art in which my house reflects the state of my soul.
If this is an odd paragraph to begin my very first post on a blog about hope, well, receive it as a clarification of what this blog is about. We do wish to be people imbued with hope, who write about its sources, about how it lives in our lives. But we also wish to be honest folk, to acknowledge that sometimes we hang from hope by gossamer threads, swaying in a wind. Sometimes we cannot feel it at all. We cannot see it in the dark. Sometimes we need each other to simply know it again at all. And that is part of the point of all of this, to share with one another pictures of where we have been, of where we are—to camp with one another in those places, to party or to mourn. It is one of the hardest things to know how to do this together; it is harder still to put some these things in writing right out here in the open.
What my father meant by camping was almost certainly negative, and perhaps an existence of perpetual camping, of being a refugee, will always have a negative cast. And, yet, camping is also a central motif in the Bible. The children of Israel, because of disobedience were set to camping for a full 40 years, the hopes of promised land disappearing into desert sand and grumbling. But buried there, too, the hope remained, rather kept for the people than by them. In the New Testament, too, Christians are asked to be camping people, to be sojourners, to hold the comforts of the world lightly, eschewing its power, to look for a greater kingdom of justice and love.
I promise, I promise, I promise not to get all Bible-y on you with every post—this is not intended to be a Bible-y blog—but I also must own that my own hope is tied up in these things, in longing for goodness and wholeness and love in my own life and in the world. It is when I lose sight of what I really want, through pure disobedience or looking for these things in the wrong places, that my hope evaporates, that I quit pushing against the entropy of my world. And I confess that for many years this has more often the state of my heart than it has not been.
One of the first titles we considered for this blog when we decided that we wanted to roughly center it around the theme of hope was “hanging out in paradox”—one might even say camping there. It is my simple hope that we camp there together (and with you the readers) well, that we can write with honesty and effectiveness about our places of despair and of hope.