I have known today’s guest post writer for close to half my lifetime, and she has been one of God’s best gifts to me: laid back and passionate; thoughtful and whip-smart; kind and prayerful. She also has one of the best laughs I’ve ever heard. She seriously listens and together we laugh until we cry. She’s also the rare bird who thinks I’m funny, which also makes me laugh. Kelly is one of the most encouraging people I’ve ever met, and I pray you will be encouraged by reading her post.
Create Challenge #9: Kelly Bermudez-Deutsch
While I could make you laugh at my many attempts to “be creative” and the pintrosities (Pin-tros-ity: a deeply troubling creation inspired by a beautiful picture on Pinterest that bears no resemblance to its original inspiration) that have resulted from my pursuit of artistic expression, I have slowly come to realize that my creativity lies elsewhere.
I have a gift for building relationships with almost anyone. With those who live inside and outside my same-ness, that is, my culture, language, religion, political affiliation, socio-economic status and life experience. I also have this crazy ability to speak truth and encouragement (or, in-courage-ment: putting courage into someone) for the next step of their journey. In so doing, my creative expression reveals itself in the unique way I help to build hope in the hearts of the people I meet.
Creating hope sounds great, but what does that even mean? How do you create hope? Does that even count as real creativity? Believe me, I’ve had this conversation with myself a thousand times. Creativity manifests itself tangibly, like on a canvas, but creativity is not limited by artist’s tools. It shows up in our everyday. And my way is found in this nebulous, ever-changing dynamic of relationships. It’s in discerning what God is doing. In walking with someone to the edge of their next leap of faith, reminding them that no matter what God is with them, for them and can be trusted with their whole heart, even when God has asked them to do scary things.
How do you create hope? I can’t give you a formula. We’ll all do it a little differently, but I have no doubt that we are all called to do so. The Bible says, “God puts poor people on their feet again; he rekindles burned-out lives with fresh hope, Restoring dignity and respect to their lives— a place in the sun!” We are called to partner with God in His work in the world, and part of what God is doing in the world is rekindling burned-out lives with fresh hope. Here’s the really exciting part: when we get onboard with His work rather than our own, God shows up in the most awesome ways.
God gives us hope and yet, at times, I have lost it. During difficult moments, my heart identified with David who cried out: “O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.” Honestly, my prayers have been less gracious, filled with more colorful language, wailing, screaming, even (shudder) cussing at God. I have felt pushed to the brink of ending the relationship I gave my life to so long ago. Broken and frustrated, I didn’t want to continue with “the plans God had for me” if they were going to be like this.
At the end of my own rope, my own effort, my own desires to appear righteous in my own strength, at the end of my own all-figured-out version of Christianity, something ordinary and extraordinary happened.
After years of silence, a friend picked up the phone. “What in the world is going on with you?” she asked. “God has put you on my heart and I can’t stop praying for you.” I burst with deep sobs and blabbered something about the pain and sorrow I strained to carry. And in that vulnerable moment she said something I will never forget. “Kelly, I know these last few years have been painful for you. I can hear it in your voice. But God has good plans for you and is laying the groundwork for something far greater than you could imagine. I know you don’t have the strength to believe that right now, but I do. And with my portion of faith, I will carry you to the cross until you believe in His goodness once again.”
I can’t explain what happened, but somehow everything changed. Her words and prayers touched me and a hope that I believed dead started to stir. God allowed her to be a part of how He “lifted me out of the ditch, and pulled me from deep mud.” She saw how “He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip and taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise-song to our God” (Psalm 40:1-3).
Shane Claiborne talks about catching hope: “You can’t really learn God’s hope like you learn the logic of an argument or the details of a story. It’s more like learning to belly laugh. You catch hope from someone who has it down in their gut” (The Irresistible Revolution). God uses those who have hope to share it with others.
My personal friend, Merriam-Webster, defines hope: “to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true. Hope implies little certainty but suggests confidence or assurance in the possibility that what one desires or longs for will happen.” Hope is both noun and verb. Something you do hoping for a good result; and an actual thing, someone or something that gives you a reason for hoping. Christ is our reason to hope. Christ creates hope in us and in the world.
God has always been clear about what He set out to accomplish on earth. In Isaiah 42 God promises that “He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant, but he’ll steadily and firmly set things right. He won’t tire out and quit. He won’t be stopped until he’s finished his work—to set things right on earth.” In Matthew 12, a retelling of Isaiah 42, God says, “Before you know it, his justice will triumph; the mere sound of his name will signal hope, even among far-off unbelievers.”
So how do we create hope? We look at how God does it. We don’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt. We don’t disregard the small and insignificant. We get in there, wherever there may be. We roll up our sleeves and lend a hand. We carry each other’s burdens. We listen, cry and get messy. We remind those who have no hope that they have reason to hope. That with God, truly “ALL things are possible” (Matthew 19:26) and that in Christ all hope is never, ever lost. As we line up with what God is already accomplishing in the world, we get to be a part of how God creates hope in this crazy, beautiful, broken world. Isn’t that AMAZING?
I do not perfectly practice partnering with God in creating hope. I am—we all are—a work in progress. While I wholeheartedly believe in creating hope, creativity involves courage. What if all I have to offer isn’t good enough? I fear both public and private criticism and feel a deep sense of personal rejection if my work is met with less than adoration. I don’t always feel courageous. Yet I value courage more than fear. Therefore, my choice must be creativity, vulnerability and risk over self-protection and fear.
Sometimes I fail. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I make a valiant attempt but still fail miserably. Sometimes, before I even begin, I find myself in a ball on the couch slaughtered by the voices of self-doubt.
But God tells us to “take heart, because He has overcome the world” (John 16:33). So, as long as I have breath, I pray that I choose to participate in what God is doing in this world. “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:12-14).
Kelly Bermudez-Deutsch lives in Northern California with her sexy husband, three beautifully quirky kids, a dog named Lucy and a cat named Jack. She loves spending time with her family, good friends and good books. She hopes that one day her home will be organized and tidy, but until then finds joy in the messiness of life and love.