I’ve characterized hope as a pearl of great price that can be placed in the heart to bring the machine of happiness roaring to life. There is another way to look at hope. A short analogy:
There is a dark cellar. The walls of this cellar are a bit of a mystery to you. They represent all that is good and evil. Although you can barely see them, you begin to make out their basic construction.
There are smooth stones that awe you and rough stones that cut your fingers. Water drips somewhere-you can hear it but you can’t see it. Small animals scurry about, which is frightening, but you can’t see to deal with them, so you stay clear of their pattering. It’s cold and damp.
The room also has chairs and a table filled with food, barely visible in the dim light. There are some paintings on the walls you can feel them but can’t make out their colors. The room both fascinates you and frustrates you.
This is your life.
You’re not quite sure what to make of it. At times the room fills you with mystery. Your initial discovery of the room feels quite adventurous. Some of the food is quite good, and even though much of it is moldy and you have a hard time picking out the good pieces from the bad, you overlook the bitter tastes and dig out another piece. The only light and warmth come from a tiny lamp on one wall.
But as you grow older in this dark, cold place, you begin to tire of the food, and the darkness begins to suffocate you. The bitter foods begin to take their toll, and in your exploring of the walls, the rough stones cut your hands. The room begins to feel like a prison. There is no way out. In fact, it never occurs to you that anything exists beyond the room.
Eventually, you become hopeless and settle for living out your days in the dark. This is best done by sleeping, so you slip into a slumber.
Then one day a brick falls out from the wall high above your head, and a bright shaft of light streams into the room. You jump back in awe, stunned by the brilliance. After you recover from the shock, you stand on the table and pass your hand through the shaft and feel a new warmth. Some of the walls around you are now clearly visible, and for the first time you see true color. You also see the rough stones to avoid and the spoiled food to push away.
But it’s the light that draws your attention more than what that light reveals. There’s more to life than this room; you know that now. If only you could escape from the room and break into the light that beckons you. Unfortunately, the hole in the wall is large enough for only your arm, and you can’t seem to dislodge any more of the wall. For weeks you sit in the light’s warmth and stare at the white hole, dreaming of what lies beyond. You’re grateful that you now can see more of the room, and you take advantage of its illumination.
But soon you begin to take the hole for granted, and you eventually forget that it leads anywhere. Over time the hopelessness you once felt returns, and you again settle for living out your days in a dim room. Once again you find that slumber is the better way to spend those days.
Welcome to the prison of our own making that we have studied thus far. The light is the bright light of hope that has lost its power to quicken our passion for life beyond this world.
Ted Dekker The Slumber of Christianity. Nashville: Nelson Books, 2005, p. 126-127.