In the last month or so we’ve had the joy of sharing this news with our loved ones. Since this is our second baby, the sharing is a little more subdued; mostly just us telling our friends as we see them. It just became “Facebook official.”But I’ve realized something in the time that’s gone by since the day I took that pregnancy test: having a baby is an act of hope. I don’t remember who told me this but it wasn’t that long ago. I’ve only now started to contemplate these words, take them to heart and own them.
What does it mean to hope? Or to have hope? To me, this concept has always been vague and sort of half-formed. But Benedict XVI asks this question in his letter “On Christian Hope”:
Is the Christian faith also for us today a life-changing and life-sustaining hope? Is it ‘performative’ for us – is it a message which shapes our life in a new way, or is it just ‘information’ which, in the meantime, we have set aside andwhich now seems to us to us to have been superseded by more recent information?
I certainly never thought of hope as anything other than passive, a kind of nice feeling you have when you think things are going to be okay. But Benedict was calling it something quite different. This hope is supposed to have real, concrete effects in our lives – even if we’re not sure things are going to be okay.
And when else have I been less sure that things are going to be okay? The world is clearly mad. I read the news and then click away with a heavy heart, promising myself I won’t look again tomorrow. But I always do. Why would you bring a child into this world? It’s not an easy question to answer. Because who knows what my children will face in their lifetime? Even if it’s not an overwhelming evil that swallows the world, they will certainly facepain and suffering in their lifetimes, to lesser and greater degrees. Why would I participate in the creation of new, beautiful people and love them with everything I have while knowing full well they will suffer? Because right now, the world over, children are suffering. They will continue to suffer.
I remember another quote from Benedict that I heard a long time ago. He said, “the one who has hope lives differently.” It sounds nice. But I think now that it’s not supposed to be just nice; it’s supposed to have real implications for the way we live. It’s supposedto guide us to make the hard, right decisions based on a real hope we have, not on fear. And that hope tells us there is more in life than this world, this hurting and wounded world. Now I understand a little better why having a baby is an act of hope. Not because babies are cute, a contrast to the ugliness of pain and suffering. Not in the trite, “a baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on” way. Having a baby means believing there is something worthwhile in giving life to a brand new person simply because people are beautiful, because a human soul is sacred, because an unrepeatable life destined for eternity has come into being in a moment in time. These truths are worthy of our reverence and respect.
Taking part in giving life to a new person guarantees heartache and suffering. But the one who has hope will do it. Benedict says:
It is….hope that gives us the courage to place ourselves on the side of good even in seemingly hopeless situations, aware that, as far as the external course of history is concerned, the power of sin will continue to be a terrible presence.
The one who has hope does not make decisions based on fear or give the world up as lost because of its many evils. When I look at the news, all I want to do is turn inward and close my fists tightly on what I hold dear, vowing to hang onto it until I’m finally finished doing my time on earth. But the one who has hope turns outward, gives what she has freely and works to ease the suffering as she is called to do so. The one who has hope doesn’t seek suffering, but also doesn’t avoid it at all costs. Sometimes the costs are worth it.
So, we’re pregnant, and God willing, we’ll have a new life to celebrate next year. And I plan on celebrating in spite of any doubts or worries, because of this great hope we’ve been given.