Hope Valley is a place, in the English Peak District, where our men’s breakfast group held one of our annual walking weekends.
It’s also an emotional space, a rather life-saving one. So much about our world seems never to budge. The wrong people are in jail and the wrong people are in palaces. Lives are snuffed out at a dictator’s whim. Armies clash, soldiers die, loved ones mourn. Shells blow futures to smithereens. Praying people pray and pray and nothing happens.
‘God,’ said Desmond Tutu (I paraphrase), ‘we know you’re on the side of the right, but couldn’t you make it a little more obvious?”The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice,’ famously quoted Martin Luther King.
Perhaps I could be allowed to add: sometimes this arc of history seems very long, longer than scurrying our little human lives can bear. Many lives aren’t long enough to see the good arrive.
Nor does the arc always bend in entirely pleasing ways. Mandela became president of South Africa, a happy geometry. Not long afterwards he was followed by a thief who plundered the country, rather than built it, and then by a good person, but who has, by some accounts, yet to get a grip. So a bad thing was followed by a different bad thing (plunder) and then by another different bad thing (unmended brokenness).
That arc of history has non-linear qualities. It wobbles. Sometimes it veers in the wrong direction.
Which is why you need hope, and why, for now, it’s a valley.
Thanks to hope we can know that the arc will be tamed someday, that symmetry will be restored.
That the arc will come to rest on a mountaintop.