We could hear the engine from our driveway. The big yellow school bus was headed towards our house. I remember standing there, watching it come closer. Though we had talked through getting on the bus many times, fear was taking over.
I don’t want to do this!
My mom and dad were both holding my hands. We walked up to the bus. I saw kindness in the driver’s eyes, but still, I was too afraid to take on that first step. It was as big as me! And the engine was so loud!
My sensitive parents knew it was not the right time and didn’t push me. Instead, we loaded up the car and they drove me, as usual, to kindergarten that morning.
“I bet she would get right on if you took her to Hope’s house,” I remember my Mema saying to my parents at our family dinner that Sunday.
Hope was my first best friend. We lived and played on the same street, but our friendship really began long before we were born. Our grandfathers had been business partners, selling furniture together. My earliest memory of her was when we were about three years old, playing at their store, The Furniture Hut. I had a small plastic Cabbage Patch doll in my pocket that I was pleased to show her. Even so, it was not until we were assigned to the same kindergarten class that we became inseparable.
We were quite a complementary pair. I was the little girl who hid behind her mama’s leg, and cried the first day(s) of school. Hope, on the other hand, was outgoing, friendly, and fun.
I entered school fully prepared with all the academics a five-year-old should know. Hope, however, had something I did not have: kindergarten street smarts.
She taught me how to draw stars, and how to tie my shoes “the fast way”. She knew all about fashion, showing me how to put a scrunchy in my ponytail so my hair would fall just so, and how to coordinate fluorescent colored clothes (circa 1989). But mostly, whether she knew it or not, Hope gave me courage.
We had adventures together that I was afraid to go on by myself. She never seemed to doubt what I was capable of doing. Her company made everything less scary, rather casual, and even normal. Take my timidity about speaking up in the lunch line, for example. Hope never spoke for me. Yet, her simple question, “What are you going to eat today?” Followed with, “Let’s practice!”
Chocolate milk, chicken filet sandwich, tater tots and apples… Chocolate milk, chicken filet sandwich, tater tots and apples…
…made lunch orders a normal part of my day.
Hope always encouraged me to be brave.
Isn’t that exactly what hope is supposed to do?
Psalm 31:24 says, “Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in the Lord.”
In Scripture, hope is the outcome of suffering (Romans 5:4), and is almost always paired with the future. The shared pairing is logical, since suffering tends to bring about an awareness of the unknown. When pain hits, it’s natural to wonder, “What will happen next?” or “How will I make it through this?”Hope is the confident expectation in something good, or rather, Someone good. And that slight difference transforms hope from mere optimism to something supernatural.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 29:11)
And they are good. He plans to give me a hope and a future. Even when the path takes a turn unexpected, and brings about undue suffering, the Lord can use these circumstances press me into such expectancy. Hope puts fear to death, and provides the bravery necessary to walk it out, trusting that God does, and will, work all things to the good. (Romans 8:28)
My Mema was right about that scary bus.
I remember walking over to Hope’s house with my parents, a little before it was to arrive. We saw it coming down the road and anxiety began to creep in.
I don’t want to do this!
The bus stopped in front of my friend’s house where we were waiting. I looked at that giant first step again. In the exact moment that I began to turn around, almost as if she knew, she grabbed my hand, and up we went. Just like that.
Hope led the way to our seat and there we sat. No longer was I afraid! Instead, I was excited about our new adventure!
I have often thought about overcoming that giant bus step as the Lord has called me to follow Him.
The Lord knew I would one day accept a marriage proposal that would take me far from home. Now living in Israel, where I ride the city bus every single day (with books and with babes), I sometimes laugh at how the Lord redeemed that childhood fear. More seriously, He knew that I would undergo the knife to have an illness removed from my body, my brain. He knew I would walk through several wars with the nation He has called me to serve, and He has already written the parts of my story that I do not yet know.
In His sovereignty, He knew this shy little girl needed a foundation of courage. He could have chosen any number of means to develop that part of my character, but in His sovereignty, He built that foundation through a friendship with a little girl who’s parents prophetically named her Hope.
Hope will forever be one of the treasures of my childhood, not only because she loved me so well, but also because she gave me a small glimpse of the Gospel. You see, that bus wasn’t quite as scary with her, because I trusted her. She had been on before and she knew we would be fine. Today there is no place I go that the Lord hasn’t been before me. Her friendship revealed a little about the heart of the Father, the power of the cross to anchor my soul to the most holy place (Hebrews 6:19); and in the midst of stretching seasons and scary moments, that hope in Him gives me courage. I don’t always know how I will make it, but I know I will because He is with me, holding my hand (my heart, even), just like Hope.