Hope is a ticking clock


What with Trump’s inauguration yesterday and the uncertainty it inspires globally, I’ve taken a great deal of comfort from this letter, found on Letters of Note, from E.B. White to a Mr Nadeau (emphasis mine):

North Brooklin, Maine

30 March 1973

Dear Mr. Nadeau:

As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society—things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.

[Signed, ‘E. B. White’]

Hope is, I think, a ticking clock. It doesn’t so much tell us the time as what the time may be if we persevere. It doesn’t count down the seconds to the next hour so much as remind us that we must be strong no matter what comes. Practically we may gain little from checking it, but spiritually and emotionally we can’t get along without glancing in its direction a few times a day.

But like all clocks, this clock has to be wound up again and again. It doesn’t run on batteries but on living intentionally, moment by moment, in the reassurance of God’s character and of good people and good things, of grace, mercy, and love. It remains our duty, however, to wind it up – this is where we play our part. We wind it up by prayer, Scripture, loving our neighbour. We wind it by “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 ESV).

At this moment in history, though it’s difficult, let’s feel convicted of hope. Let us tend diligently to our ticking clock, rising, as E.B. White wrote, to wind it as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

Have a good weekend,