It was in my Mother's living room when we gathered together for an after-Christmas gift exchange. Long gone were the days of hastily unwrapped toys and coloring books from Grandma. Rather, each was handed an envelope and a small package. In the envelope was a check; a welcome gift for the four college-aged, cash-poor kids. The other was a small gift book entitled "Life's Little Book of Wisdom for Students." The book just cried out for its pages to be fanned and interesting quotes voiced aloud. One after another, the kids played the role of wise sage. Many profundities rolled off their lips but one stopped us dead in our tracks. "With perseverance, the snail reached the ark." It took just a moment of silence before we understood the depth of meaning. We rolled in laughter imagining the sight of the tiny mollusk inching ever forward. Unfortunately, that crazy phrase has also been rolling in my mind ever since.
If I was a snail in Noah's time, I think--assuming snails think--that I would have been been pretty discouraged with the task assigned to me. "You want me to walk where?!? Do you understand that it takes 56,874 of my steps to make up one of Mr. Elephant's? I can't possibly make the trek. I shall surely be swept away with the first ten rain drops. Woe is me. Woe is me. I shall never see that big 'ol boat."
Ever feel like that? I have. And if you say "no," I bet you're fibbing. For me, a variety of circumstances brings on the feeling; the prospect of parenting a newborn for a couple of decades, a long, horrible climb at mile seventy-eight of a hundred mile race, too much work and too little time, or a challenge requiring unfamiliar skills. And when the pressures really pile on, sometimes just getting to the next sunrise threatens to undo.
Maybe Noah's snail was related to the ant that moved that rubber tree plant. Why? Because he had high hopes and piles of perseverance.
Hope. We all use this word in many different ways. Often, we may as well equate its meaning to wishful thinking. It’s like jumping out a perfectly good airplane hoping that we will frolic on the fluffy clouds on the way down. Somehow, I don’t think that will happen. Or, little children are good ones for hoping that Santa will bring them a special present. Fat chance that a chubby guy from the North Pole will actually make a visit bearing gifts, getting his wide girth down a skinny chimney.
Hope can, however, represent something far greater than frivolous musing. Hope is what happens when faith is well placed. Let’s say I go to the airport to board a plane for California. I have faith that the airplane will meet all the requirements of physics to take off and become airborne. Thus, I can have hope of arriving at my destination because the thing in which I have placed my faith is reliable.
In a spiritual sense, our hope of eternal life is born out of saving faith. Our hope for a mature Christian walk is because we have faith that “my grace is sufficient” (2 Corinthians 12:9). We have hope of running and not tiring, walking and not fainting (Isaiah 40:31) because we have faith that Christ strengthens us to do all things (Philippians 4:8).
When faith is well-placed, hope becomes a reality. It is not something to be wished for; it is something to anticipate. So hope and persevere like the snail. You will find your ark.
But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. (Psalm 71:14)