Two weeks after I graduated from college, I moved to Orlando, Florida. I knew three people who lived there and I set off on the adventure with only the items I could stuff into two suitcases (in 1996, airlines still allowed passengers to check up to two pieces of luggage for free). I didn’t have a job, a place to live or enough money to pay my first month’s rent.
It was an honest-to-goodness leap of faith and I knew with all the matter making up my flesh, bones, and soul that everything about the journey fit perfectly into my life.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t harbor any reservations. I worried some about the big unknowns, such as where I would live after I wore out my welcome at my friends’ home, or if I’d really land a job as easily as people predicted.
I also had a few concerns that some might find superficial: namely, alligators and super-sized bugs.
Yep. That’s the kind of gal I am. Give me a one-way airline ticket and some hopeful words of encouragement, and I’ll make a new home more than a thousand miles from the one I’ve known since girlhood. But toss a spider in my direction and I’ll scream loud and high enough to shake glass. And I’m not even going to write anything about what I’d do if faced with a real, live, toothy gator, because friend, I’ve got some issues with reptiles. Especially the ones that want to eat me.
My time in Florida spanned five years and the good far outweighed the bad. I found a job and lost a job and found another that boosted my career in the right direction. I made life-long friends, fell in and out of love a time or two, and married a Florida Gator (that variety of gator, I can handle).
Tears and tough times specked seasons of those five years, yet hope thrived even when I doubted its existence. I’ll never forget the time where I was between jobs; the only items in my pantry were a box of muffin mix and a container of instant hot cereal. I baked those muffins and rationed them with the cereal for one week.
I was just about ready to call my family and ask to move back home when I received both a job offer and my income tax return on the same day.
I also killed the biggest, hairiest spider I’d ever seen that day. I’m certain my shrill squawk shocked it long enough for me to strike it with a shoe. For good measure, I let out a scream with each swat.
Bugs came at me in other ways in Florida (and the other places I lived throughout the South). If we ever sit down for a cup of coffee, I’ll tell you all about the time I stepped on a fire-ant hill … and about the time I learned that palmetto bugs (aka, giant, flying roaches) have a scandalous love for wood glue (shudder).
Contrary to my unpleasant history with creepy crawlies, my feelings toward insects have softened. One reason for this is my tender-hearted 7-year-old son who reminds me that every living creature was made by God for a purpose. There’s truth there. While I don’t believe mosquitoes have souls, I know there is a reason they exist.
I’ve also gained an appreciation for bugs with tenacity and I think that God has been using arthropods, arachnids, and the like to remind me that there are times in life when we need to hang on tight to hope. It started a few years ago when I was driving to the grocery store and noticed a spider clinging to my car window. I drove faster in hopes that the pest would blow away, but as it hung on, I started rooting for its survival because I saw a little bit of myself in that spider. I even wrote this (in)courage post about it.
When I wrote that post, hope was easy for me to grasp. I had left a season of doubt and rejection, and my family and I were given a fresh start. The years since that post? They’ve been bumpy. And hope? My grip on it loosens here and there. More than one time when I’ve felt at an impasse with hope, a grasshopper, spider, or moth will show up on my car window as I’m driving and I smirk … but I remember.
I remember every moment I almost gave up and didn’t.
I remember those days of eating just a muffin a day until that check surprised me.
I remember the searing pain that came when another person looked me in the eyes and said, “You’re not enough” and the joy that soothed me when I later read Psalm 139.
I remember that hope isn’t a feeling. It’s a promise from the giver of life. And the promise of hope was sealed and delivered with the blood of Jesus. That kind of promise is unbreakable.
If a bug that has nothing but instinct, grit, and physical strength can hang onto a vehicle moving 65 miles per hour, then I can withstand the hurricane-sized winds of life when I have the God who commands armies of angels telling me that He’s got me. I can rest assured that hope belongs to me in all things and at all times.
Some Verses of Hope:
“When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face. The ‘worst’ is never the worst.” Lamentations 3:28 (MSG)
“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5 (NIV)
“So that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:18-20 (NASB)