“Pushback” is everywhere. Sometimes it’s intentional; more often, it’s just woven into the fabric of the world as it is. The brightest idea, the firmest resolve, the most extensive preparation and the most impressive credentials all meet resistance. Promising pathways lead to dead ends, or turn out to be mere projections of our own wishes.
“Pushback”, the world’s resistance to the best we have to offer, tells us – over and over again, since we, like the Israelites of old, are a stiff-necked people – the terms on which life has been granted us. We inhabit, but do not possess, the world. Other creatures, other realities, have their own integrity, separate from ours. They exist because God delights in them. They cannot be transformed into the instruments of even our noblest aspirations.
Character derives from the acceptance of this truth, God’s truth. Character entails the recognition that God has created us to honor the distinct integrity of each of God’s creatures. It’s humility forged, by the Spirit within, from the manifold frustrations to which the perennial reality of pushback gives rise. It rejects the temptation to turn stone to bread, to absorb the separate reality of another into its own designs, to treat another as a means rather than an end.
From character comes genuine and trustworthy hope. Character tells us that hope is, by definition, shared. It arises from the daily endeavor to articulate shared aspirations among the distinct realities that comprise creation. Suffering, endurance, character, hope: the journey of the human spirit, through which we find ourselves, one another, and God.