Saturday, September 11, 2010

Five years ago, while studying abroad in London, I came across this painting at the Tate Britain museum, and I fell in love:

Its title is simply, "Hope." It was painted by George Frederic Watts in 1897. It might not look like much to you, but allow me to explain why it has since become my favorite painting.

The image depicts a ragged young woman sitting on top of a dreary world playing a harp. Her clothes are tattered, her eyes are bandaged (suggesting that she is blind), and only one string remains intact on her instrument. She tenderly plucks it, head bent close, as if she can hardly hear anymore either. It is unclear what struggle this woman has faced that has brought her so low, but I am continually touched by her will to hold on to whatever beauty is left in her life, even if it is only a simple note from a harp.

I aspire to be like this woman--to remember to hold on when all else around me might seem dark. It is not a false dream of a better life; it is the anchor of a sure knowledge that there is beauty in all of life's experiences and that the Lord loves each of us. May I trust Him as much as he has trusted me. No matter what my future may bring, I will always cling to HOPE.

Monday, September 6, 2010


The other day, I was walking across my apartment complex, and I passed a group of young girls (probably ages 6-9) standing around by the playground. As I walked by, I caught a snippet of their conversation. It went something like this:

Girl #1: "Should we play on the swings first or go to the big hill?" (By the way, there are no big hills in my complex. I'm not sure what they were talking about).

Girl #2: "Maybe we should swing first, because we'll want to spend more time at the big hill."

Girl #3: "But that's boring!"

The debate was still going strong when I passed out of earshot. I had to smile as I thought of the dilemma of these young girls, and laughed to myself, thinking, "Oh, the decisions of a seven-year-old. They have no idea. If only life were still that simple."

Then I realized something: we often think of our current situation as being SO difficult, when in reality life has a tendency to continue offering more complex problems to solve as time goes on. Once we've gone through something, it's tempting to look back on others and over-simplify the difficulty of their decision.

But, here's the thing: our current situation IS difficult. It's only in hindsight, when we've mastered a particular skill set or solved a particular problem, that it seems "so simple." For those young girls, it was a big problem, and they are developing essential skills that they will build on for the rest of their lives. By the same token, each of us is faced with problems, decisions, and trials that equip us for the increasing complexity of life. So, here's to the small decisions that lead us to the big ones. May we embrace the learning process.