Never walk into a Cabela’s wearing jeans and a khaki/tan Columbia brand short-sleeve shirt. Some young man playing checkers, sitting in one of the overstuffed chairs, will pause and tell you to have a good day at work. Then, as you stroll the aisles, another person will approach you and ask if you have any firestarter. You politely tell him you do not work at Cabela’s and in awkward silence, you each move on. Chuckling inwardly while you shop, you keep your antenna raised to detect any other potential mistaken identity moments.
Joy happens to you when least expected. And isn’t this what makes it joy?
Months later after Cabela’s, driving home from work, I slowed for a stoplight. Breaking my concentration, the truck in front of me had run out of room for bumper stickers. Scanning my eyes upward, the owner had moved his compulsion for stick-on missives to the back window where at least the center was clear for sighting through his rearview mirror. There, behind the driver, I read, “I hope something good happens to you today.”
The sentiment brought a smile. I thought about heading up Interstate 75 to Cabela’s. Instead, I drove home and thought deeper about this statement.
Hope as a word, having changed its meaning over time, once meant trust. Trust leads a person to believe there is an assurance the end hoped for is closer to reality than not. Much more today, the word conveys a sense of luck. When someone says I hope for this thing or that, implied in the statement is conditionality and helplessness. With its change in meaning, the word hope lost its power over time. Or maybe we just quit trusting. As my friend said in response to someone telling him he was lucky—I work hard to be so lucky. The retort stuck with me.
Isn’t hope as luck prodigal? Isn’t trust different than luck?
Thinking about that window sticker, I removed an “o” from the word good and the statement perked up for me—I hope God happens to you today. Sounds better, doesn’t it?
Its meaning took on new life. God happens to us even as we leave Him behind when we go to work or peer pressure dictates behavior or we confine Him to our worship houses. He happens to us ignoring Him or not, believing or not, rationalizing or not, misguided or not, sinning or not.
God compels me to live hopeful. When I say I place my hope in God, I place my trust in Him. Salvation is not for the lucky, but for those to whom God happens. And He happens to us all, all the time. Some hear Him.
The world departed hope’s meaning. Maybe it’s time to come home.
When I realized hope was trust, I happened upon a sudden, unexpected joy.
Or did Joy happen to me?
“Those who have ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15, NKJV).