This past week was the first week of Advent, the week of hope, and so I've been thinking a lot about what it means to hope lately. I've realized that hope isn't some fluffy, pastel concept, glowy and ethereal. I feel like in America, we've turned hope into some wimpy, fantastical thing that has no substance and takes no work. Faith, hope and pixie dust, right? But if you're going to have some chance to rely on hope during the hard times, it can't be some floaty, glittery pixie dust. It has to be tough. It has to be gritty. It has to be hard.

I went to a tree-lighting ceremony a couple of days ago. At the end, as you do in almost every single Christmassy thing, we lit small candles. In between trying not to light my friend's very long hair on fire, holding the little flame made me think that hope is a lot like a candle trying to survive in a blustery courtyard. Hope is fragile. It needs a bit of shielding from the elements, especially when you only have a tiny little candle of hope instead of a full on bonfire. Sometimes, people or the elements of nature come along and snuff your hope out. Sometimes, you only have a very very small hope, more of an ember than a flame. But, at the same time, even if you only have a small candle of hope, it can light up the whole room.

I've learned lately that hope hurts. It's much more comfortable to simply give up instead of holding on for some beautiful thing that may never ever happen It seems like it would be much better to just settle, to move on, to forget about your hope. It would probably just be easier to melt into the darkness around me instead of trying my hardest to keep my little candle alive. But I think I'd rather have hope, even it means getting hurt over and over again, and looking like an idiot. I'd rather have the light.