Leave it to Fulbright Andorra to teach me about putting my hope, faith, and trust in the right things. In the reality of COVID-19, where your hope is matters! Hebrews 6:18-20 says our hope is an anchor for the soul. If Christ isn’t our hope, then something else will be, and it will disappoint…
Where is Your Hope when Hiking?
I think the country of Andorra is trying to play a joke on all of its English speaking residents and visitors.
It may be farfetched to think that an entire country could play a joke on all of the people who speak one of the most universal languages in the world. But in my defense, Andorra only has about 80,00 people, and those 80,000 people know each other so well, it wouldn’t surprise me if they were in cahoots together…
By the time December rolled around in my Fulbright grant, I’d only been in Andorra for four months, and besides climbing up a steep set of stairs onto a flat mountain path, I’d yet to do any real hiking. So in December, when my American friend visited me with her British friend, they were excited to visit such a beautiful, tiny country, and hiking was high on their list of to-do’s.
So I asked around my school and received some hiking recommendations from my co-teachers. I looked up a trail that several of them had referenced that leads to the beautiful lake: Lac Engolasters.
The best part of the path was that, on the website, it was labelled “Easy” in English.
And the worst part of the path was that it was anything but easy. First of all, it wasn’t much of a cleared path as it was a line of slippery boulders escalating up the steep side of a mountain. We had worn tennis shoes and boots when we should have been dressed in harnesses, rock climbing gear, and serious hiking boots. The incline somehow grew steeper with every step. And every step of the way, we would wonder how this could possibly be the right trail. Google Maps continued to assure us that this was the correct trail, and the Andorra website continued to laugh in our faces. This trail was easy.
And the website definitely didn’t mention the cow that lurked on the side of the trail and would dart from side to side at the most unexpected times. (At least the cow was wearing a bell ? to warn us ?).
Who rated this trail as easy?
Where is Your Hope when Skiing?
When I went skiing for the first time in Andorra, I was similarly told that skiing was Easy.
And if my host sister, who was only 8 years old at the time, could do it, why couldn’t I, the American Fulbrighter in Andorra? Besides, going down the mountain should be so much easier than going up the mountain.
I was wrong on all accounts.
You see, no one had told me that Andorrans start skiing when they are basically 3 years old. Thirty-six months after birth, the kids are on the slopes, so for them, skiing is like walking, just as natural as taking a breath.
I fell a lot. (Which is honestly an understatement. Not sure if it was mathematically possible for me to have fallen more ? and I was just on the green slopes.)
My two coaches (my Andorran host parents) did their best to cheer me up, pat me on the back, coach me, encourage me, unclip my skis from my feet so I could stand back up, and pull me out of a fence (that one only happened once–I promise ?).
So, obviously, I’m not a world class skier, and I definitely don’t fit the minimum Andorran standards for a hiker. I had failed miserably on all accounts. And in both of these experiences, I had put my faith and my hope in other things, a lot of things that ultimately ended up failing me, too (yes, I’m sorry host parents. I appreciated the effort but skiing is just too natural for you to explain it to an unnatural like me!)
At the end of the day, my only lasting hope was placed in one thing:
That someone would be there to catch me if I fell and carry me home.
Where is your hope during the pandemic?
In the last three or four weeks, we’ve seen a lot of things fall, and I don’t just mean the stock market.
We’ve seen institution after business after livelihoods crumble, and because of that, I think hope has taken a dive as well.
Early into the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, I attended a night of community gathering at my local church. The group spoke openly about the reality of COVID-19 and discussed honestly how we should respond. I wrote a post about how I have been responding to the coronavirus, but one thing I realized from this open forum was just how much of the world’s hopes had been stripped away–and that where your hope is matters.
Where We Place Our Hope
There were people that placed their hope and value in academic achievement, grades, and others’ praises. And yet, all the universities shut their doors; graduations were canceled. Someone’s hope was gone.
Others put their hope in sporting events, to entertain and bring friends and escape from the day-to-day, or to provide the athletes themselves fame and status. Then all sporting events were suspended; all tournaments were canceled. Another hope gone.
Perhaps some people put their hope in being able to travel, to fuel a thrill inside of them, or to just vacation away from work. A swift travel ban is put in place. Another hope gone.
Some might have put their hope in their money, in their job, in their stock market investments. But with the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus, stock prices tumble; offices are closed and coworkers no longer see each other. Another hope gone.
Maybe there were some who had none of those things, but took pride in driving the best car, or having the latest fashion, throwing the best parties, or attending exclusive social events. Yet with social distancing, we can’t even hold on to our communities or our friends. Who will see our material things? Alas, another hope gone.
One after another, we have all witnessed as the things that we take comfort in vanish before our eyes–school, money, jobs, sports, travel, vacation, fame, status, friends, material items. And so I had to ask myself…what’s left? I guess seeking comfort in God but what about hope?
Finding Your Hope
In situations like this, is it enough to just hope that everything is going to be okay?
I say no. For the first time in my life, everything that the world claims should be my hope, that begs for my attention or steals my focus–all of that is dead.
I started this blog post off with two “mis-adventures” in Andorra to hopefully lighten your day a little, but also to illustrate how I erroneously put my hope, faith, and trust in the wrong things. I was trusting an Andorran website to rate a trail appropriately. I was trusting a 10-second skiing debrief to keep my head out of the snow. Going up the mountain and down the mountain, I was beaten, bruised, and hopeless.
But when I fell, my head was pointed heavenward to my one and only true hope. God is here to catch me when I fall and carry me back home–back to His love and grace.
An Encouraging Verse about Hope
Because at this moment in time, truly only Christ remains.
“(18) God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. (19) We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, (20) where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:18-20 NIV
Where your hope is matters! If Christ isn’t the anchor for our souls, then something else will be, and it will disappoint.
Be encouraged! Reach for Christ. Remember that our God is sovereign.
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