Hope or hyperbole?
June 20, 2007
"When does desire to give people hope in a desperate circumstance subtly morph into hyperbole?" asked Dr. Janet Clark, Academic Dean of Tyndale Seminary.
We were talking of the time—over a decade ago—when I was attempting to rescue this school from near bankruptcy. Many asked me then if there was any hope the college and seminary would live. What was I to say? (I was new to this world of education and didn't know the essential factors of its survival.)
When asked of its future, my default position was, "I believe it will live."
So what was that? Hope or hyperbole?
Hyperbole is an exaggeration meant for effect but not to be taken literally. Hope is a feeling that what is wanted will happen.
In biblical context, hope is an attitude that creates an environment in which faith is expressed and practiced.
Leaders are called on to generate hope. We have to. People look to leaders to set the margins in which their dreams are lived out.
And there in lies the importance of good judgment. How far do we responsibly go in creating hope without crossing the line of hyperbole? Without the hope of possibility, peoples' will to do shuts down.
An important part of our task then is discernment.
I dislike attempts to merge "think and grow rich" with Christian ideas as if they are one and the same. While there are principles of attitude one can learn in the marketplace, biblical hope is realistic, linked by the action of faith in a loving and trustworthy Sovereign.
When everything seems impossible. As the sky is falling in. In those moments we judiciously offer hope that may not be realistic to some, but from a wide-angle view, describes God-factor possibilities and in so doing enlarges space for people to walk in faith.
Dear Spirit of Hope, Transcendent God for whom there are no ends to the landscapes of hope, as we walk with those for whom hope is a mocker, give us discernment to know how far we can push their boundaries. So as their toe touches the water, hope replaces despair. For you want us to see that our boundaries aren't yours. Spirit of Wisdom, as we speak words of hope may they not border on hyperbole but on what's possible within the wide horizons of your own good world. Amen.
For a leader, there is but a grey line that divides hope from hyperbole.