July 26, 2023
Pr. Arlyn Tolzmann
Pastor Andrea Doeden in Colorado, before becoming an ELCA Pastor, was an obstetrician. I follow her on Caring Bridge because she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about two years ago. In a recent post, she wrote: “I read an email this morning by an author I follow who shared a brand new word to me. RESPAIR!" It means “a recovery of and return to hope.” Literally, to “hope again", from the Latin re-sperare. And yes, it’s the opposite of despair. The word was coined by a Scottish poet in the 14th century, but for whatever reason had become obsolete by the 1500s. During the pandemic, though, a movement began in the UK to reintroduce this word into our common vocabulary." Have you heard of this word? I hadn’t, but I think it's a great word. How do we (you and I) practice respair?”
>From my vantage point, Bethany is deep into Respair right now!
Pastor Andrea’s question was for me a cause for meditation and some struggle. To me, it is looking back at some tough moments in life and seeing how I got through them. I agree with Krista Tippett in Becoming Wise An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living. “Hope is distinct from optimism or idealism. It has nothing to do with wishing. Hope, like every virtue, is a choice that becomes a practice that becomes spiritual muscle memory. It’s a renewable resource for moving through life as it is, not as we wish it to be. Hope is not an emotion. Hope is a cognitive, behavioral process that we learn when we experience adversity, when we have relationships that are trustworthy, when people have faith in our ability to get out of a jam.”
For me, Romans 5 says it well: “Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” This text was the focus of my June 18th sermon. I see a lot of hopelessness in the Emergency Room, but I also see those who hope against hope, as Paul writes in Romans. In a sense hope is finding the hidden light in all events and people and making the light visible again, which in Hebrew is called, tikkun olam. It’s the restoration of the world; concern for your Pastor and her family, support for one another, social action, and justice.
Pastor Arlyn Tolzmann