By Harmony Harkema
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Heb. 11:1 NIV)
It was spring. Every Wednesday afternoon, I left work and headed north with my bicycle strapped to the back of my car, eager to get in a nine-mile ride on Poplar Creek Trail before the mid-week service at my church. If traffic was light, I’d get there early enough to stop by the pond for some quiet meditation.
That Wednesday, I had extra time. When I got to the pond, I climbed off my bike and sat cross-legged on top of a picnic table. The sun was warm on my shoulders. A gentle breeze rustled the new leaves on the trees. I closed my eyes, willing myself to empty my mind of busy thoughts, to feel only the presence of God’s Spirit.
I was unsettled. I had been for months. After ten years as a high school teacher, I was deeply unhappy with my career. If I was completely honest with myself (which was rare), I had never been truly happy with my career. I was good at it. I was successful. But I wasn’t happy.
There’s an old, rather sad saying that goes like this:
“Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”
That was me, except that it wasn’t that I couldn’t do what I dreamed of. I was simply afraid of failing, so I never really tried.
After ten years of allowing myself to be held hostage by fear, I was desperate for a way out. I was screaming inside. But the practical part of me kept whispering I was crazy to throw away ten years of work and start over.
You know what? God heard my silent cries. And He had a plan for me. A plan that would teach me the true meaning of hope.
As I sat there on top of the picnic table that afternoon, I pleaded silently with the Lord. I’ll do anything God, my heart whispered. Just show me the way.
Friends, if you say such things to the Lord, you had better mean them (see Eccl. 5). He will take you at your word.
Behind my closed eyelids, I saw an image of my own bare feet, just as though I were looking down at them. They stood at the edge of a precipice, bare toes clutching the loose, black soil. Over the edge of the precipice was—fog. Thick, white fog.
As I watched the feet in my mind, they jumped off the precipice, into the fog.
I opened my eyes, my heart pounding wildly. The sunny afternoon was unchanged. A family rode past on bikes, the children calling to their parents. A heron sunned himself on the shore of the pond. The branches of the willow on the far bank swayed in the breeze.
And in my heart, on that ordinary Wednesday afternoon, I jumped, just like the feet I’d seen in my mind’s eye.
The very next day, I went into my assistant principal’s office and handed her an envelope. My hand was shaking.
“What’s this?” she asked.
“It’s my letter of resignation,” I said.
She looked stunned, as well she might have. I’d been at that particular school for three years, and I’d had excellent reviews. I’d been offered the position of adviser to the national award-winning school newspaper. No one expected me to just up and leave. She assumed I’d taken a job at another school. When I explained I hadn’t, that I was leaving teaching altogether and had no idea where I was headed next, she was even more shocked.
It wasn’t easy, resigning like that. I cried. I really liked my principal, and I felt bad about leaving a school that had invested in me. But I had glimpsed a different kind of hope, and I couldn’t let go. I had to chase it.
Here’s the thing, friends. We all tend to put our hope in the things we think we can be sure of, the things we can see and touch. Our families. Our friends. Our college degrees. Our jobs. Our resumes.
Until we can’t anymore, because those things have let us down or we figure out that they don’t offer the kind of hope we really need.
All I had left to hope in, after that Wednesday afternoon in the forest preserve, was the Lord.
For the next six months, He tested my ability to keep hoping. My ability to trust. My ability to put my faith in Him alone.
I got two part-time jobs to make ends meet. I took a career transition class at my church. I reworked my resume. I applied for job openings. I went to interviews and didn’t get hired. Week after week, I earned exactly enough money to just get by. There wasn’t a dollar extra.
I faithfully took practical steps to help me move forward, but I knew I was at the mercy of the Lord. I was just doing my part so that He could open a door. I had no idea what that door looked like or when it would appear before me. But I had hope—I hoped like I’d never hoped before! And I trusted. I held onto faith like a drowning animal, because what else could I do? I’d quit my job based on a vision. There was no going back. I could only go forward, one foot in front of the other, blindly making my way through the fog. I know my family and friends thought I was crazy for quitting a well-paying job without another one waiting. It certainly didn’t make sense in any practical way.
And then, in November, I got a phone call from a human resources gal at a publishing house in my home state, the state I’d left three and a half years previously. The state I hadn’t intended to return to. (God has such a sense of humor.) And I knew. I knew even before the first phone interview was over that I was standing at the door.
I got that job. In the space of three weeks, I packed up and moved back home.
Seven months later, I met my husband. The rest is history.
If I had continued to hope in my job, my steady salary, tenure—if I had continued to count on those things for security rather than the faithfulness of my God—I wouldn’t be here writing this post. I wouldn’t have this crazy testimony.
I shudder at the thought.
He is our security, our comfort, our guide. The rest is “a chasing after the wind,” as Solomon said (see Eccl. 4).
So let me ask you—where is your hope?
“May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” (Psalm 33:22 NIV)
Harmony Harkema has loved the written word for as long as she can remember. A former English teacher turned editor, she has spent the past seven years in the publishing industry. A novelist and blogger in the fringe hours of her working mom life, Harmony also has a heart for leading and coaching aspiring writers. Harmony lives in Memphis with her car-loving husband and two small daughters. She blogs at harmonyharkema.com.