Tolkien tells us that while Bilbo and the dwarves were at Rivendell, “Their clothes were mended as well as their bruises, their tempers, and their hopes.” The longer I live, the more deeply I understand that hope needs mending.
I have come to appreciate all who mend and fix things. My mother, who as I write is sitting by the fire with a book, used to darn socks on evenings like this. But it is even more difficult, I think, to mend hopes.
Our world, awash in cynicism and seduced by despair, erodes hope and sometimes sweeps it away through divorce, betrayal, molestation, and cruelty. Kids give up their natural dream of heroism, only to find they have become the bully. Prince Charming can turn-out to a sadist. Happily (ever-after) turns into crappily. Our “hoper” gets broken.
Those with the elvish skill to mend hopes do it with truth. Truth may seem an odd fix for broken hopes since we often think of the hopeful as naïve, gullible, or oblivious to reality. But despair is just a narrow realism. Hope is mended when our hard realism about our present misery is stretched to include realism about God’s past faithfulness, about God’s immediate presence, and about the promise of future victory. The hopeful possess an expansive realism. A sock is darned from the firm edges of the sock surrounding the hole. Our own emptiness is surrounded by God. Those who mend hopes consistently speak and embody the truth in whom we live, move, and have our being.
I think it is important, however, to listen to the hopes and dreams of people who come to our Rivendell. We refresh the spirit of those we take the time to see and hear. And we can only mend the hopes we have understood. At Rivendell elves (this may have been hard) listened to dwarves before adding wise counsel and restoring dashed hopes
Too often the church has been the place where Christians lost hope after being wounded, scolded, or ignored. We must make church more like Rivendell—but must remember that orcs sneak in. Still as individuals we can answer the call to make our hearts and friendships places where hopes are mended and where plans are made to retake all the dragon has stolen.