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This is an episode full of joy and hope for Black History Month! We asked a few friends of Be the Bridge to share what they love about Black culture. Their responses remind us of God’s distinct, beautiful, intentional creativity and design. They remind us of the power of perseverance and resilience.

Resilience is connected with another theme we’ve been holding on to at Be the Bridge – hope. So we are also bringing a word of encouragement from one of our board members, Dr. Will Gravely, with the powerful message he shared at our Leadership Summit – HOPE: The Marathon and the Sprint – Spiritual Strategies for Endurance, Effectiveness, and Execution.

Join in the conversation on our social media pages on Facebook and Instagram and LinkedIn to let us know your thoughts on this episode! 

Host & Executive Producer – Latasha Morrison
Senior Producer – Lauren C. Brown
Producer, Editor, & Music – Travon Potts with Integrated Entertainment Studios
Assistant Producer & Transcriber – Sarah Connatser

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Not all views expressed in this interview reflect the values and beliefs of Latasha Morrison or the Be the Bridge organization.

Latasha Morrison
Be the Bridge community, you know what month it is! It’s February, which means it’s Black History Month. So this episode is going to be a little different and a little special. This will be an episode full of joy and of hope. At Be the Bridge we are intentional in how we honor and celebrate the history and heritage of different cultures. We also are intentional about being a community that learns from, celebrates, honors, and appreciates cultures no matter the day or month of the year. And some of you have heard me say, “I am Black 365 days of the year.” But this is when our country pauses to recognize the diaspora and our mixed experiences and culture. We have asked a few friends of Be the Bridge to share what they love about Black culture.

Alicia Brown
I love Black culture.

Diann Cylar
Black culture.

Corregan Brown
Black culture.

Michele Evans
Black culture.

Crystal Smith
Black culture.

Tremayne Manson
Black culture.

Alicia Brown
The experiences, traditions, and contributions of people of African descent across the globe.

Crystal Smith
I feel like Black culture means a lot to me, especially, because of how we have the ability to create.

Tremayne Manson
I just love that we have these collective experiences as Black people joyous, joyful experiences, whether you are from the West Coast or the Midwest or the South or the Northeast, that we can all come together and be like, “Yep, that happened to me when I was a kid,” or “Yep, I remember that,” or “Yep, that still happens.”

Diann Cylar
The beautiful shades of our skin from black to light, our hair from kinky, curly to straight.

Corregan Brown
We survived the horrors of the Middle Passage, and not only made it to these shores alive, but thrived, and had children to whom we passed hope for a brighter future. Which thank God, it’s finally come true.

Dion Evans
I love the resiliency of Black culture, that we make it through. We get through all the stuff, no matter what it is that happens. We have a way of coming out on other side.

Alicia Brown
Black communities and Black culture have continuously reshaped the cultural landscape of societies worldwide through music, art, the military, literature, language, innovation, cuisine, dance, fashion, spirituality, education, and so much more.

Sydney Middleton
Traffic lights, pads, home security systems, lightbulbs, ironing boards, etc. Like we would not be where we are today without the creative and innovative minds of Black people.

Corregan Brown
We adapted our instruments and our sensibilities and created bluegrass, blues, and jazz. And these were the roots of country and rock and roll. And even when they took our instruments, we took turntables and we entered it to dialogue with our diasporic brothers and sisters from the Caribbean and created hip hop.

Diann Cylar
We use leftover food to create delicacies and scraps of material to clothe our family.

Tremayne Manson
Black people in America we have that common, these common experiences and that kind of common thread that connects us all together. So no matter where I go in the country, I always feel like there is a connection to the Black folks even if I’m, you know, 1000s of miles away from home.

Michele Evans
It comes out in our worship, it comes out how we live our lives, it comes out how we encourage and raise our children, just all of those that have come before us that have endured so much more than we could ever even imagine. If they could do that surely I can do this.

Corregan Brown
Black people are resilient. Black people are powerful.

Alicia Brown
Black culture forces the country that I live in, America, to live up to its ideals. So when we read words in our constitution that say, “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” Black culture shows up at the door and says, “Are you sure about that?” So that’s what I love the most about Black culture.

Latasha Morrison
Didn’t you love hear those responses? You see, they remind us of God’s distinct, beautiful, and intentional creativity and design. They remind us that there’s the power of perseverance. Everyone’s different. Our lived experiences are different. But they teach us something and they also point us to God. You see, as we reflect on Black culture, this Black History Month, we hear the theme of resiliency. Resilience is connected with another theme we’ve been holding on to at Be the Bridge. And that is hope, the hope to endure, the hope to long for the flourishing of all people.

Narrator
You are listening to the Be the Bridge Podcast with Latasha Morrison.

Latasha Morrison
[intro] How are you guys doing today? It’s exciting!

Narrator
Each week, Be the Bridge Podcast tackles subjects related to race and culture with the goal of bringing understanding.

Latasha Morrison
[intro] …but I’m gonna do it in the spirit of love.

Narrator
We believe understanding can move us toward racial healing, racial equity, and racial unity. Latasha Morrison is the founder of Be the Bridge, which is an organization responding to racial brokenness and systemic injustice in our world. This podcast is an extension of our vision to make sure people are no longer conditioned by a racialized society, but grounded in truth. If you have not hit the subscribe button, please do so now. Without further ado, let’s begin today’s podcast. Oh, and stick around for some important information at the end.

Latasha Morrison
Since we’re talking about culture, I wanted to make sure that I started with, and didn’t assume, that we all knew what culture is. At Be the Bridge we do trainings across the country. And you would be surprised to know that everyone doesn’t understand what culture is and what culture is not. So I love this definition that Soong-Chan Rah. He’s a professor, and how he explains it in one of his books, he says, “Culture is an acquired knowledge, lived experience that helps you navigate the society you live in and provides guidelines for your interaction with others.” I’ve been fortunate to be certified and trained in cultural intelligence. And this is something that I find very important to navigating the space of racial healing. And as he says in his definition, “It helps you navigate the society you live in and it provides guidelines for your interaction with others.” When we don’t understand culture, we don’t understand each other, and our interactions could be off. Now many of you probably have seen this cultural iceberg where there’s this surface level of culture that we understand. And then there’s this iceberg underneath where there’s just deep cultural things that we don’t quite see, but it’s at play. And if we miss those things, we can make a grave mistake, or we can be very offensive to another culture. So some of those surface level things about culture. Some of you may know, like, the type of food, festivals, holidays, games, language, literature, performances, fashion, all of those are a part of culture – things that we see. But then there’s those little things that we don’t see, that we don’t lean into, or that we don’t understand this at play. And some of those is how we interact and our attitudes towards work, authority, elders, religion, our manners, friendship, leadership, the concept of time, fairness, justice, our facial expressions, eye contact, personal space, touching, body language. All of those are part of culture. So when we talk about what I love about culture, I think this is a beautiful question. And it’s something that I love to discuss, because it’s important that we see the value in each other’s culture. And I just remember this story. When I was on staff, I was having this conversation with someone and talking about Black culture, and specifically African American culture. And they said, “What would you want to keep from your culture? I mean, I mean, there’s not much about Black culture that you would want to keep. “And I remember them mentioning violence. They said, “Well, maybe like r&b.” And I just remember thinking like, “So you limited this wide range of culture, understanding what culture is, you limited down to two things?” And not really understanding what culture was, this person had diminished our culture down to two small segments. I’m not even going to get into the point of violent culture. Because, as Americans, I would say, that is not an African American culture, per se, that is an American culture. So there’s different forms of culture. So there is, you know, within this world that I live in, there is a Southern culture. You have church culture, there’s Christian culture, there’s white culture, there is, you know, Vietnamese culture, or Korean culture. There is, you know, so many cultures within this umbrella. And so today, we’re going to talk about Black culture, how we interact, our expressions. And getting back to this conversation I was having with this person, it’s important that we see the value and significance at work in all cultures, and not just your personal culture. And that is what he was looking at; he had this very small view of what of what culture was and what it is not. And what I love about Black culture is I can walk in a room. And there’s these interconnections of Black culture, but also church culture. So I can walk in a room, and I can say, “First giving honor to God,” and most of my friends would finish that sentence with, “Who is the head of our life.” Or I can go into a room, and I can say, “The blacker the berry,” and somebody will respond, “The sweeter the juice.” And that is culture. Or I can call my friends or I can text my friends and say, “Girllll.” And they’re gonna know exactly what I’m talking about. I can make eye contact, and they’re going to know exactly what I’m talking about. I can make a gesture, and they can know exactly what I’m talking about. I can quote a movie, and we can all know what line that movie comes from. Being a part of the African diaspora, we are a collective culture, but we live in a society that’s very individualistic. And so I think that’s important as we talk about this. And as you hear the stories as we talk about the culture that we like about Black culture, it’s important that I wanted to set a foundation so that we understand what culture is and what culture is not.

Latasha Morrison
And so one of the things that I love about Black culture is our collectiveness. I pray that because we live in an individualistic society that we never lose that, that we hold on to that. That what hurts one also impacts the other. And we see that at work when we have incidents that happen, where we grieve and suffer with those who grieve; we rejoice with those who rejoice. So I love that family community that we have. And I pray that is something that we hold on to, because it is our strength. Our oneness is our strength. Our uniqueness is our strength. I think about even how our culture has impacted not just America, but the world. As we look at the music that we’ve contributed, as we look at marrying our joy and our sorrow, and we created blues, and from blues you have jazz and country music, r&b, hip hop. All of these things that other cultures have taken and created their own things out of that. So I look at even Kpop and where that derives from. So, as a community, we’ve impacted everything. And I’m proud of that. I’m proud of our culture. And it’s important to also remember that every culture has healthy things, and some things that are not healthy that’s a part of their culture. And if you want to know more about those things, you’ll have to sign up for our academy or our trainings. Because we dive deep into culture and understanding as we do our racial literacy trainings. So I hope you enjoy this little tidbit on what Black culture is. And it’s important for us to see the value and significance of God at work in all cultures. God is at work in all people groups and in all cultures. And I think if we look through that lens, we can see different things that we appreciate from various cultures. And so I want you to take this time to think about your culture, think about your family culture, your church culture, Christian culture. If you’re from the Midwest, think about the culture in the Midwest and how it’s different from the culture in the North or the South or Pacific West. It makes us unique, it makes us who we are. And it could be a beautiful thing if we just look at it from the right lenses. Happy Black History Month.

Latasha Morrison
We want to bring a word of encouragement to the Be the Bridge community from our board member, Dr. Will Gravely. He’s a Black leader and pastor who brings truth, empowerment, and steadfast faith. He gave a message at our Leadership Summit that we had to bring to you. As bridge builders, as people peace, as truth tellers, we have to have hope. We cannot do this work without this foundation of hope. It’s what girds us, it’s what keeps us. So we invite you to listen to the scholar, pastor, strategist, and creative Dr. Will Gravely as he shares on HOPE: The Marathon and the Sprint – these are spiritual strategies for endurance, effectiveness, and execution. Enjoy!

Dr. Will Gravely
So marathons are not run on the track. Right? And it’s for a reason. There’s terrain. It’s not flat, it’s not comfortable. It’s not monotonous. It’s ever changing. Just like this word, just like the climate, just like the topics, just like the headlines, it’s ever changing. And the threat to this notion of endurance is exhaustion. Is exhaustion. We need endurance to run a marathon. We’ve heard this phrase time and time again, “This is a marathon and not a sprint.” And sprint’s are exciting because you can run them off of adrenaline. But marathons can’t be run off of adrenaline. They have to be run off of endurance and the threat to endurance is exhaustion. Now, why is exhaustion a threat, it’s not just a physical threat, it’s a mental and emotional threat. We can listen to our bodies in a way that can cause us to not complete the race. And we used to have this notion in track. And it’s not so healthy in life, but just hear it in the context of competitive athletics. Pain is a suggestion to quit. Pain is a suggestion to quit, which means that when the presence of pain is realized, I feel like I ought to stop. And we should. That’s a healthy practice. Hear me in the context that I’m saying this in. But for some of us, as soon as we get hurt, as soon as we’re offended, as soon as that comment is spoken, as soon as somebody says something crazy, or posts something that’s a little off, we feel like, “I can’t do this. I quit.” The adrenaline runs out, the honeymoon period ends. And we forget that it’s not a sprint. Only, it is in fact, a marathon. So the threat to endurance is exhaustion. And exhaustion tells us, one that exhaustion will last forever. And what’s interesting is that the race won’t. Exhaustion will exhaust itself before the race is completed. We don’t have to run forever. We don’t have to run indefinitely. And since we brought up track, you can also consider this a relay. Who are you supposed to pass to when you’re tired? Who are you supposed to pass it to when you feel like you can’t go on any further? This is a team sport. It’s one of the things I love about cross country, even though I hated cross country. Let me give you a little background,  cause y’all are like, “Why are you talking about running so much?” I was a competitive runner since six years old. And I got to this point where you start to win your local meets and then your regional meets and then you get to go to Nationals. And I went to Nationals at 12 years old. And we took a trip from the Philadelphia area in Pennsylvania to go down to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It was an expensive trip. It took a lot of time. And my dad couldn’t even go with me because he was working. So my mom went down with me. Got all the way to Junior Olympics. And I got last place. I got last place. “So what happened? What kind of race was that? You made it all the way to Junior Olympics and got dusted. Like, what was that about? Right?” Here’s the deal. Endurance is not just connected to our physical stamina, it’s also connected to our mental fortitude. I didn’t get dusted because I didn’t belong there. I got dusted because I got psychologically psyched out. In the warm up area, people were talking trash and like what their PRs where (their personal records and their best times). They were talking about who they competed against and how strong they were and what they were capable of. And that got in my head. So that by the time it was time to run my race, the race that qualified me to be there, the race is seated me at a position to get a medal, I didn’t run my race, because I lost mental endurance. I had gotten to the place to compete, but I was exhausted mentally and couldn’t physically perform. And so I want you to understand that there’s going to be a demand on you, not just in your emotions, but also psychologically. And that endurance is going to be required and exhaustion is going to make its own suggestions. So that’s this first component of endurance.

Dr. Will Gravely
Here’s the next component about a sprint. I said it’s a sprint and a marathon. In some ways, a false dichotomy when we’re talking about this work. It’s both. You need this passionate, prophetic voice that can speak in the moment. You need to be light on your feet and ready to go and have these bursts of energy that can deal with the issues of the day. So that component is in fact a sprint. But here’s what we need to discuss when it comes to a sprint. It’s very, very hard to sprint up a mountain. It’s very, very hard to sprint up a mountain. Sprints are done on a track, on flat, predictable terrain. But mountains inherently hold variations. You can’t just say, “I’m just going to run.” You have to constantly be calculating and processing and analyzing the terrain on which you are running. So how often are we considerate of the things that we have to navigate as we’re aware of where we’re trying to navigate to? Do you pay attention to the trail? Do you pay attention to the debris? Do you pay attention to the rubble, because if you don’t, again, you’ll get hurt along the way. So it’s very, very challenging to sprint up a mountain, not just because of the obstacles, but also because of the altitude. The air is thinner the higher you go. It’s also challenging when you recognize that there’s an incline. And it’s harder to run uphill than it is to run flat and certainly downhill. So when it comes to the sprint aspect of this work, recognize that it’s very hard, if not impossible to run up a mountain. And when you’re doing holy work that’s not popular, when you’re doing holy work that doesn’t have a large consensus, when you do holy work that disrupts the status quo and even further disrupts common and casual comforts, recognize that it’s on an incline. It’s on an incline. So what is this sprint connected to? Effectiveness. It’s connected to effectiveness. It’s this burst of energy, it’s this burst of adrenaline that really all comes down to form and technique. You either have it or you don’t. Now, what’s the threat to effectiveness? What’s the threat to effectiveness? It’s our expectations. It’s our expectations. A lot of times that we feel like we’re failing, it’s often because we’re measuring the wrong thing. What are your metrics of success? And are they connected to the actual goal? Or are they a deviation and a deterrent from what we’re actually here to accomplish? You can feel like you’re failing but actually be in the midst of a very real and lasting success. But it’s simply because we’re measuring the wrong thing. For as something as low hanging is this, in your group, there’s one difficult person that you question as to why they’re even there. No, like I made that up? (laughter) So your hope can be connected to that person having a radical transformation in no time at all. And when you see them persist in their broken perspective, you start to lose hope. And you start to measure the wrong thing. The success of your group is not built on that individual. Let me…Okay. Some of this work is Holy Spirit’s work, and you can’t do a thing about it. If God wants to accomplish it, God has to move. But there also has to be an openness, submission, and humility to allow the Spirit of God to move and transform an individual. And that’s not on you. So you can have all the content in the world, you can be the best communicator in the world, but there are some things that have to come from a contrite disposition and contemplation with the Spirit of God. And that’s between that person and the Holy. So this notion of effectiveness. Are you holding the right expectations? What needle are you watching and how much do you expect it to move? Because my healthy assumption is that you’re probably more effective than you think you are. Here’s the next piece concerning hope. And this comes from a dear colleague that actually spoke this this week in one of our intensives. Dr. Ian McFarland says this, “Hope is the expectation that nothing is beyond God’s ability to redeem.” That’s Dr. Ian MacFarlane. Hope is the expectation that nothing is beyond God’s ability to redeem. Which brings us to a point that I’m going to bring up in a few minutes, but let’s highlight it now. Hope is not connected to results. Hope is not connected to results. Because when we don’t see the right results, we don’t see the right results coming in a certain progression, we have a tendency to lose hope. And that dear friends, for all of us, is a fragile hope. Hope is not built on results, it’s built on our relationship. And it’s not built on our ability to change or manipulate circumstances, it’s built on God’s sovereignty. So hope is the expectation not that things will change, it’s not an expectation for a specific outcome. Hope is the expectation that nothing is beyond God’s ability to redeem. Now whether or not God does so and does so in your time, is your issue with God’s sovereignty. But God’s ability to do so ought never be questioned by a believer. So what does this come down to in our real lives? That’s what makes hope difficult. Right? We wrestle with the tension between God will and God can. We wrestle with the tension between God will and God can. We should never question God’s ability while we wait for God’s decision. God’s decision. God’s authority never shifts. God is always able and capable. The question is, will God? And when we don’t see God doing certain things, we, if we’re honest, begin to question if God can. When our real question is, if God will. Which brings us back to this notion of hope, and the contrast that hope has with faith. Faith is connected to an outcome. Hope isn’t. Hope is this expectation that nothing is beyond the ability of God to redeem, which means it’s not over, which means all is not lost, which still means anything could happen. But I don’t lean my hope into a desired outcome and try to manipulate God into it, and then retract my hope from God when I don’t see it happening. Hope is in the person of God. And so it’s not built on results. It’s built on a relationship, and my expectation that nothing is beyond the ability of God to redeem. To redeem.

Dr. Will Gravely
Let’s continue friends, we’re on a journey. Here’s this piece about execution, execution. How do we follow through? How do we implement? A lot of this stuff, honestly, as structured as the framework is, as clear as the pathway is, it is an experiment. Why? Because we are the variable. People are the variable. People are in the way. People are unpredictable. People have life happen. People go through stuff. People are triggered. People have issues. People have baggage. And so there’s always going to be a variable when it comes to your execution. And what is the threat to execution? We talked about these other threats, like endurance is exhaustion. What’s the threat to execution? It’s doing what’s easy. That’s the threat to execution, doing what’s easy versus doing what’s required. When you’re exhausted, guess what we have a tendency to do? What’s easy. Because we’re considering what we have left, we’re considering our own capacity, which is why this work has to be done in community. When I don’t have it, you do. When we don’t have it, they do. But there’s a power in a collective us that we don’t hold as individuals. And a lot of times our hope is dashed against the stone because we feel like we don’t have the ability to execute. And so in turn, we don’t do what’s right, we do what’s easy. And low key it’s one of the deepest theological quotes I’ve ever heard. It’s from Harry Potter. I’m not in to Harry Potter like that. I just got like, you know, the little seven minute thing where you’re testing something out. Like it was on TV, right, and the wizard dude with a long beard. Some Harry Potter nerds help me out, you know his name.

Audience
Dumbledore!

Dr. Will Gravely
Dumbledore. Right. He said this epic theological quote in the midst of this like mystical kind of pagan magic show. And he says, “Every day, we will have to choose between what is right and what is easy.” At some point, we will have to choose between what is right and what is easy. What does that inherently bear? That the right decision is typically harder. That the right decision is typically harder. And so when it comes to our execution, we the collective we, and if I don’t have it today, we are called to do what is right, not to do what is easy. So that’s this notion of execution. And I talked about this earlier, let’s unpack it a little further. Hope is not built on results. Hope is about relationship. So how do we endure in this work? How do we execute in this work? How do we make sure that we’re effective in this work? Your people time is fueled by your private time. Your people time is fueled by your private time. If this becomes a heavy intellectual pursuit, if this becomes simply drawing from your library and pulling quotes, you will be spiritually exhausted. And no matter what resources you bring to bear, you won’t get the results. Your people time has to come from your private time. How deep is the well you’re drawing from? And has it run dry? Here’s the deal. That’s okay. Like our wells run dry at times. We do in fact, get exhausted. We get tired. We, even in the moment, seem to lose hope. But how generous are you with yourself on taking time to refill and refuel? So that when there’s a demand placed on you, again, you’re drawing from a place of the eternal enough.

Latasha Morrison
Hello, listeners. Welcome to the Be the Bridge community. This is Latasha Morrison, and I am the Founder and CEO of the nonprofit organization Be the Bridge and the author of the book entitled Be the Bridge and the host of this wonderful podcast. I am so glad that you are here! You see Be the Bridge response to racial brokenness and systemic injustice in our world, and believes understanding can move us toward racial healing, racial equity, and racial reconciliation. This podcast is an extension of our vision to make sure people are no longer conditioned by racialized society. But we are grounded in truth. We have provided this podcast as a resource to help cultivate courageous conversations and equip all to flourish. You will find interviews from a variety of thought leaders, faith leaders, and business leaders, as well as authors, artists, activists, and athletes. You will be encouraged, you will be challenged, but most of all, you will be changed. So go ahead and subscribe to the Be the Bridge podcast on your favorite podcast player so you don’t miss out on any of these helpful and hopeful conversations.

Dr. Will Gravely
This is the work of the Spirit of God, for the purpose of God, for an outcome that God desires. And the problem is when scholarship comes to bear, we can pursue it with head and not heart. One of my mentors once said, and it’s probably quoting somebody else, so I’ll just leave it ambiguous. But the longest journey any of us will ever take is a journey from our head to our heart. So recognize that this is a spiritual work and that hope is built on our relationship with God and not the results that we are attempting to accomplish. Because hope is what? The expectation that nothing is beyond the ability of God to redeem. That’s where our hope lies. So so let’s unpack this from a scriptural standpoint. Uh oh, Bible. (laughter) So this piece comes from a larger peripheral view but this is just a couple verses from Romans eight. And it reads this way from the ESV. “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what they see? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Now this is talking about us coming into for maturity or sanctification, us becoming like Christ. Like that’s kind of like a pretext to this text. But this notion of hope is very interesting and intriguing. It says, “Hope that is seen is not hope.” So again, let me pull from Dr. McFarland for just a moment. He would suggest that I don’t need hope for this notion that I would sprout wings and somehow be able to fly. Not likely. I also don’t need hope that the sun’s gonna come up tomorrow. Hope that is seen is not hope. I don’t need hope for things that are right in front of my face. I need hope for things that I cannot see in the moment, that I wish were real. Hope. “So hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what they see?” Here’s the tough part. “But if we hope for what we do not see,” that’s hope based on the eternal, “We wait for it with” here’s the hard part – waiting sucks. Anybody love waiting? Like you love long lines. You enjoy traffic? You psychopath. (laughter) Right? You love waiting? Right? No, nobody really loves waiting. Because it’s delaying something that we desire. So what does it mean to wait for something that you cannot see with patience? The reality is, the longer you go without seeing it, the less you believe it’s there. The less you believe it’s coming, the less you believe, in turn, there’s a temptation that God is capable of fulfilling the thing of your hope. But again, hope is not connected to the results, friends. Hope is connected to our relationship with God. And that is rooted in the expectation, not the demand, it’s the expectation that nothing is beyond the ability of God to redeem. To redeem. Here’s another encouragement. And this comes from another retired professor and amazing colleague, Dr. Luther Smith, he’s actually a student of Howard Thurman. And so he brings to bear this notion. This comes from Scripture. This is Pauline, that faith, hope and love row together. They’re buddies. That’s the crew. That’s the squad. Faith, hope, and love roll together. And so we have this tendency to pull hope out, and extract it from its friends, and try to make it stand in isolation. And he says, like these eternal virtues, like these three faith, hope and love, abide, and the greatest of these is love. Let’s break that down for a second. Like theologically, in that moment, the reason that love is higher, is because love is synonymous with God. John brings to bear this notion that God is love. Love is not something we do. Love is a person. And so God doesn’t have to be loving. God is love, which also helps us with hope. Because it means that everything God does as love is loving, which shifts our expectation on results. Because if God does this, then he’s loving. If God does that, then God loves me. If God does this, then God is merciful. And I become the judge of God and God’s character based on my own expectations. And that friends, is a scary place to be. But because faith, hope, and love abide, we have to recognize that faith, excuse me, that hope is never running around by itself. They run together as friends. And here’s what happens. Somebody is up front. They’re taking the brunt of the wind. Somebody might be in the back. But there the voice of encouragement. “We got this. We’re almost there. Keep going. Don’t quit. Hey, y’all watch out. There’s an obstacle here that wasn’t here yesterday when we ran on the same path.” They work together in unison, which is somewhat ironic. And I’m not going to go here fully. But think about that. Faith, hope and love. Father, Son, Spirit, there’s something in that triune partnership that seems to be well rounded, whole, and complete. But just know this, faith, hope and love run together. Here’s another notion of hope from Scripture. And don’t worry, I know it’s scary. “No, no more Bible, please.” (laughter) More Bible. More Bible. Romans 5:3-5 says this, “Not only that,” and I’ll break down what that context is. What is that? Right? “But we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces” what? Say it louder.

Audience
Hope.

Dr. Will Gravely
“And hope does not put us to shame.” Pause there for a second. You know why we don’t broadcast our hope? Especially when our hope is fragile. We don’t want to look dumb. And we don’t want to make God look bad. We don’t want to look dumb, and we don’t want to make God look bad, so I’m gonna broadcast my hope because as it wanes, I don’t want to look stupid expecting for something that’s not going to happen. But that’s not what this encouragement is saying. There’s something that actually produces hope. We don’t have to muster it up from our expectation. There’s something that produces hope and it’s called character. But character doesn’t just come from anywhere. Character comes from this word we talked about earlier, endurance. And where does endurance come from? Because all these sound like good things like endurance, character, hope. That’s amazing. Right? Here’s where it comes from, something we all hate – suffering. Suffering. So there’s this progression here where suffering produces endurance. Oh, scary prayers. How many people have ever prayed for some of this stuff? Like, “Oh, God, give me endurance, I need to finish my race. I need to keep going. God give me endurance.” And then we’re like, “God, what the heck? Like, did hell just break loose in my life? Like what is going on? Now? Like, did you hear my prayer? Am I punished? Did I say it wrong?” And we missed some of these tenants of Scripture. I’m not saying this is a formula. I’m saying that at some point, this is a spiritual fact, that God will use suffering, to produce endurance. Why? Because when we realize nothing we do can change our circumstances, we have no choice but to sit still and let God be God. And that, my dear friends, what better definition is there other than that of endurance? We think endurance is like, “I’m gonna keep going, I’m gonna keep going.” Okay, cut Samson’s hair and see how much strength he has. It’s not on us. It’s not on our strength. It’s this expectation that nothing is beyond the ability of God to redeem. So suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character. “Oh, I want to be like Jesus.” You sure? Because there’s a way this happens. There’s a way that this comes about. Even he, as God incarnate, learned obedience through the things that he suffered. So suffering produces endurance, endurance, produces character, and character produces hope. And hope does not put us to shame. But if I’m scared of being shamed in my suffering, and looking crazy to people, if I’m scared to have to endure and to have godly character be produced through this uncomfortable space, then I’m never going to get to the place where my dignity is ensured. Hope doesn’t put us to shame. And isn’t that weird that a lot of us when we dare to hope when other people have given up, we feel like we look dumb? And take on this notion of shame. “Like God I’m believing for something that looks stupid.” Because that’s connected to results. And hope is not connected to results. How dumb can you look, when there’s not like, I guarantee this will happen in 10 years. It’s not about that. I guarantee you that God can do it. And so “hope does not put us to shame because God’s love,” there it is, again, they run together, “has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Dr. Will Gravely
I feel bad for Old Covenant believers and those that are pre covenant people of God. Because God was localized. God was on the top of this mountain, God was in this burning bush, this pillar of fire, this cloud, these holy places, hovering above the Ark of the Covenant. God was localized. Here’s what’s amazing in this that gives us hope. For a New Covenant believer, God’s still omnipresent. Praise God for that tenant of his character, but God is also in us. Holy Spirit is in us. What we’re drawing from, what our expectation is in, is nearby. It’s always close. It’s not far off, like “I got to scale that mountain to get to it.” It’s in us by the mercy of God through Holy Spirit. And that, dear friends, is something that should stir our hope. Here’s something that hit me this week, as I was kind of pondering this notion of hope. Hope lives in a space between the improbable and the inevitable. That’s where hope lives. In between the improbable and the inevitable. Again, like even as Dr. McFarland unpacked this notion of I don’t need hope to believe that the sun will rise tomorrow. And I also don’t need hope that I’ll sprout wings and fly because, low key, they’re not coming. Like, good luck sticking that landing. You know? But hope lives somewhere in between the improbable and the inevitable. So why do we need to be careful about this? Because if we’re not careful, we will use hope as a means to manipulate God or manipulate outcomes around these two extremes. We will leverage our hope to reframe the improbable. “Because God owes me.” “Because this is an expectation I ought to have, and because of that, as God’s child, God ought to do this and make this result happen, even though it seems improbable.” And on the other side of things, we also try to manipulate the inevitable. If it seems inevitable that a certain person is going to say a certain comment at a certain time, or we think is inevitable as we look across the political landscape, certain things seem inevitable. We also try to leverage hope to manipulate that. Which robs us quietly, of this expectation that nothing is beyond the ability of God to redeem. God can even redeem the improbable. God can even redeem and shift and change the inevitable because God is God. And so my hope should rest in God’s ability to do so. And again, not be connected to these results, which in my lowest moment, would give me the temptation to try to manipulate outcomes concerning the improbable and the inevitable. So hope lives in between that space. Here’s another pull from Dr. Luther Smith. And I want to encourage you, he has a great text that just came out called Hope is Here. Hope is Here. Phenomenal text. But he says, something to this effect, “We often use hope in a way that reflects our anxiety and fear. But not its inherent greatness.” You ever recognize like the way we use hope it’s always connected to some like bad circumstance, tragedy, chaos that we want to change? Or hope is always connected to like our fear, our insecurity, our anxiety. Like, “Oh, I hope this goes differently. I hope this goes differently.” Do you realize you can still have hope when things are going well? Like hope is also for things that could be better than our current best. Like hope should never go away and just be pulled out of our pocket when we encounter chaos. Hope is for all times because hope is rooted in an everlasting, eternal characteristic of God – that God’s ability to redeem does not change. So we often use hope in a way that reflects our anxiety and fear. And in doing so, we do not lean into hopes inherent greatness, as Dr. Luther Smith. Here’s another quote from Luther Smith. “Hope is a force of God that enlivens us to life. But sometimes that enlivening is disturbing, rather than comforting.” Hope is a force of God that enlivens us to life. Hope makes life feel like it’s worth living, because nothing is beyond God’s ability to redeem, which means I can endure, which means I can experience this, which means God is with me in my lowest of lows, and with me in my highest of highs. It quickens me. Even in the Spirit, I feel alive and connected to eternity because of hope. But, that enlivening doesn’t always come in the midst of comfort. Sometimes that enlivening is disturbing, rather than comforting. Because you’re going to face circumstances where you have to put all your chips down on God’s, not mine, God’s ability to redeem. And that is not always comfortable.

Dr. Will Gravely
There’s another little piece here, and I’m going to kind of round the corner with this. Hope is what fills the empty tomb. It holds space between God’s perceived absence, and God’s profound action. And thinking about this this week, I hadn’t seen this picture before. At least in my faith journey, in The Way, Christianity, right, I saw a picture of hope in the resurrected Lord that is seen, that is touched by Thomas, that shows up in person, but hope that is seen isn’t hope. That’s not a picture of hope, because Jesus showed up and proved himself. Hope was in the empty tomb. And for a lot of us, we lose hope when we feel like God is absent. Here’s why that moment matters, these women, and that’s a whole nother, we’ll leave that to. These women who were – well I’ll do it this way – these women who were the first to preach the Gospel, who are entrusted by a messenger of God, an angel, to carry the good news back while the men were in hiding. They were the ones at the tomb and found the tomb empty. Which is a picture of hope. Why? Not because, “Where’s God, where’s God?” But because God’s not here! There’s good news that God’s not here, because God’s not supposed to be. If he’s resurrected, why would he still be in the tomb? That is a picture of hope. And it’s before they ever lay eyes on him. They simply got a word from somebody else, an angel, that says, “Why are you looking for him here? He’s risen. He did what he said he would do.” And a lot of times we can’t see God, even though I believe they could still sense God. You know much power was still just in that space from what just occurred? Do you realize Jesus wasn’t the only one that got up? Yeshua was not the only one that was resurrected. There were other people that got out of their grave. Great. Do you understand how crazy the resurrection is? Like God was showing off. Jesus was not the only one that got up out of the grave, like other people did, too. Like went into town. Like doom doom, like going through it. (laughter) Michael Jackson didn’t do that. These dead folk walking around. That’s wild! But they were looking for God to be where God was last time. It’s not that God’s not present. God’s just busy doing what God said God would do. So find where God is right now. But there’s still enough of His presence. There’s still enough of his power, where he was, where you saw him last time. But don’t think because you can’t see God, that God’s not here. So there’s this notion of this empty tomb and hope is what fills that space. The tomb wasn’t empty. It just was absent of Christ’s body. It was filled with hope. And it holds space between God’s perceived absence. “I can’t see you. Where are you? Oh, no, did they steal your body away?” See how we start to rationalize. “Oh, they must have stolen him, man.” You’re losing hope. He got up! Because nothing is beyond God’s ability to redeem. You, ohhhh, you had never seen somebody tortured in that way; you’d never seen this person you knew was God incarnate captured, submitting to human power, being beaten, mocked and murdered. You thought it was a rap? And because his body is absent, you didn’t take that as an opportunity to hope to say, “Wow, it really happened. He did it.” You saw that as this rational moment of defeat, “They must have stolen him. The Roman soldiers must have taken him away.” No, no, no, no hope occupies this empty tomb and it holds space between God’s perceived absence and God’s profound action.

Narrator
Thanks for listening to the Be the Bridge Podcast. To find out more about the Be the Bridge organization and or to become a bridge builder in your community, go to bethebridge.com. Again, that’s BeTheBridge.com. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, remember to rate and review it on this platform and share it with as many people as you possibly can. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Today’s show was edited, recorded, and produced by Travon Potts at Integrated Entertainment Studios in Metro Atlanta, Georgia. The host and executive producer is Latasha Morrison. Lauren C. Brown is the Senior Producer. And transcribed by Sarah Connatser. Please join us next time. This has been a Be the Bridge production.