Keeping the Faith

The One Word “Written on the Brow” of Every Man, Woman and Child

“Where there’s tea, there’s hope,” said the quote written across a gold-framed mirror on the wall in a looping hand.  We were having breakfast in the most adorable little teahouse* with bold, emerald green wallpaper in a vintage design, French-style seating and a single pink tulip propped in a vase at each table.

photo-40As I gobbled down my pesto eggs on sourdough with a pot of earl grey tea, that little sentence kept niggling at me.  Finally, I pointed it out to my brekky buddy.

“Really? Tea and hope?” I scoffed, “What a lot of shallow nonsense!”

I should point out here that I’m a tea girl.  I enjoy the occasional coffee, but tea is my staple.  My kitchen features a precarious mountain of tea canisters and it’s a joyful day when I discover a new blend to add to the collection.

Tea equals contentedness, comfort and enjoyment? Yes.

Tea equals hope? Not so sure.

I rate such a statement up there with that ridiculously over-used poster ‘Keep Calm and (enter meaningless activity here)’.  My humblest apologies if you own a mug, print or doormat emblazoned with such a script. I’ve written about this before… But I digress.

So there we were in that classy little tearoom and said brekky buddy points out to me that, while indeed there is no magic in tealeaves to bring hope to situations of despair, the conversations and relationships cultivated with a cup of the steaming stuff in hand often point in that direction.  I gave her a wry smile because she was right, of course.

It’s what the tea – or any beverage downed in the company of others for that matter – represents.  Shared moments, perhaps.

Victor Hugo (Les Miserables, The Hunchback of Notre Dame…) once said, “Hope is the word which God has written on the brow of every man.”

Every man, note, not just happy, wealthy, successful or healthy people.  Hope is what propels us forward.

What I love about Hugo’s quote is the dual illustration.  “Written on the brow,” suggests that hope is hardwired into our emotional and cognitive makeup – it’s at the forefront of our mind.  But in a physical sense, if you have something written across your brow, your forehead, it’s impossible to see it for yourself without a mirror.

Sometimes we need a mirror to recognise the hope in our situation.  Enter friends, family, tea-drinkers.  A genuine ‘How are you?’ and ‘What’s on your mind?’ can start one of those meaningful conversations.  Sometimes we get so caught up in our own failings and difficulties that we lose sight of hope.  We need someone else to point out what was always there.

The Bible is the ultimate mirror.  It brims with hope.  Its main character is the personification of hope, because Jesus provides an avenue to restoration.

Romans 5:5 says, “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (NIV)

It’s hope beyond hope. Hope beyond the temporary hopes of this life, hope beyond death. It’s the hope that bestows meaning on our life span, that says there is indeed a destination.

To return to that quaint tearoom once more, tea does have the ability to conjure hope amidst despair, especially if it’s a pot of tea shared with a trusted other. But true hope, the hope written across your brow, will only be properly quenched when reunited with God and His eternal promises.

*The venue was, of course, The Hopetoun Tearooms in the Block Arcade, Melbourne.

As printed in The Examiner newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday August 19, 2013.

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