Devotion - November 18, 2020

Ephesians 1:15-19

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know God, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which God has called you, what are the riches of the glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of God’s power for us who believe, according to the working of God’s great power.

Devotion by Rev. Courtney Jones

I know and admire many unflappable optimists; I am not one myself. Nor am I a pessimist (I don’t think), despite my desire to be prepared for any worst-case scenario. No, I am something much more boring, and perhaps something you wouldn’t expect in a pastor: I am a realist. This year has certainly tested me, and I have swung from willfully optimistic to tragically pessimistic, but ultimately I find equilibrium in realism.

My favorite holiday movie is Home Alone, and I started early this year—we began watching it last weekend on one of the network holiday countdowns. There is an exchange early in the film, in which two brothers, Peter and Frank, are running to the waiting van that will take them, their wives, and their children (minus Kevin, of course!) to the airport. Frank says, “There’s no way we’ll make this plane; it leaves in 45 minutes!” To which Peter responds, “Think positive, Frank!” The retort comes fast: “You be positive; I’ll be realistic.”

There is a way in our culture in which hope has become synonymous with optimism, and if you are one of those enviable folks with a cheery and optimistic disposition, I’m not trying to talk you out of that. I recently read a piece about “toxic positivity,” though, in which I was reminded that sometimes we are stubbornly optimistic as a fragile attempt to keep our lives simple and to keep the unpleasantness of the world at bay. We don’t want to be overwhelmed by bad news, or we don’t want political arguments to cost us relationships, and so we just ignore the headlines and refuse to talk about the things that matter to us with the people who matter to us. That’s not always bad; sometimes it’s incredibly necessary so that we can stay engaged and keep putting one foot in front of the other. It’s important to know when we are doing it, though, so that we can eventually find our equilibrium again.