And This Christmas Tolls With Treacherous Hope

It hurts to hope. I suppose I have always known this, but it is a lesson more thoroughly learned after six long months on the road. A hardened realization that has hit me with the thrust of a 75 mile-per-hour collision.

It hurts to hope for work in wintry seasons of joblessness. Hurts to hope in plates and people spread round an otherwise bare table.

It hurts to hope in purpose and meaning. Hurts to trust the invisible void that we’re not just here by chance and happenstance.

It hurts to hope in any season of the year, but the hurt seems especially biting now. We are hurting, we are waiting, and we are looking up, hoping for the Christmas bells to toll.

Christmas Bells Toll

Photo courtesy lynns, Creative Commons.

Six weeks ago I was wandering outside Rochester, New York. I’d been on the road for five months, and as the black of night engulfed me and my Mitsy, an unsuspecting neighborhood glow altered my course.

Christmas lights — a house whose halls were decked and decked fully. It was the first sign of Christmas I’d seen across the continent (Walmarts notwithstanding), and I realized then how long I’d been driving. How far I’d come in my search for home.

Memories of the Pacific Ocean and tank top hikes now drifted like distant snowflakes as the chilly glow of Christmas swirled beyond my windshield, ringing like bells that reminded me I was still driving, still searching, still yearning.

That first outward sign of Christmas was a beautiful dreadful manifestation of something inwardly hurting and hoping.

Three weeks ago, it hurt to hope in a Kickstarter that would fund the final legs of this journey — a 21,000-plus-mile, six-plus month journey that many could point to and declare:




Three weeks ago, it hurt to hope that anyone would believe in me enough to sacrifice some of their Christmas season for me. I knew what needed to happen for me to continue, but I didn’t know if it would.

And yet after twenty days, that hurtful hope was fulfilled.

Because those of you reading gave a Christmas gift of whatever size, I am now 101% funded. And you can still give through Christmas Day. Believe me, any additional funds will go to good use, and I’d love to bless all backers with some belated Christmas gifts of my own in 2015.

Because of you, I can finally conclude my epic journey in 2015. Conclude it . . . somewhere. But the where — that’s a hurtful hope for another season.

Alas, that is our story: one hurtful hope heals us, and another weighs upon us once more. It is, in essence, the Christmas story: a baby sent to save us from our ultimate misery and the arduous journey still ahead.

And so this Christmas tolls with treacherous hope. The bells are big and bold and altogether terrifying. They shake us in our boots, and they settle upon us like a soft and quieting snowfall. It is the same story every December.

We hurt.

We wait.

We hope.

Year after year, we hurt and we wait and we hope. And then like a shadowy cloud passing a big bulbous moon, we stop, we look up, and we shudder.

And the bells — the bells, they’re ringing . . .

  • MLYaksh

    Funny you should mention the hope at Christmas… thousands of years ago, there was a people who were hurting in hope, hoping for a Saviour, their Messiah. They waited hundreds of years for His coming and were probably about to give up all hope when, humbly, He came down to earth in the form of a baby.

    Hope will not always be painless, Tom. But I cannot help but think of Romans 5 which says that Hope does not disappoint. You will get what you hope for- but don’t make the mistake the Hebrews made over 2,000 years ago. Don’t reject the fulfillment of your hope simply because it doesn’t look, feel, or act the way you think it should. Accept it as a gift from God- as a blessing, a reward for remaining faithful in your hope.

  • Bryon

    This is a beautifully written post. I think your literary symbolism and sentimental vibrato reverberate like the bells you picture. I had my best Christmas ever, with some people I didn’t know well. I felt comfortable in my own skin, entertained and cared for people, showed movies and after 13 hours we all went home. It was pretty special. I spent it at my Church. I helped organize a day with the couple who live there in the building, who had their own little baby Jesus a month earlier. We invited the people we knew who had nowhere else to go and we at one point, spoke of our loneliness and hurt, briefly commiserating in each other. I think that was really what made it all so worthwhile. I didn’t realize I had anything in common with these people. I too think everyone else is better off, better looking, better loved than I am. Jesus was there to meet with us and alleviate the loneliness and bring us closer together. Merry belated Christmas.