How Everyone Can Be An Optimist
My Grandma Barbara Ruth, she ever only saw a cup one way.
Didn’t matter if the tea’d been poured out or if the sky’d tipped over or the tap was still running loud.
Every cup she ever held or tipped back or drank from, they were all right empty as far as she was concerned.
She’d been dying of old age since she was 42. Every picnic was bound to get rained out. My grandfather’d be whistling Winn-Dixie and she just knew he was brewing to pick some fiery fight. I loved her like there was no tomorrow. And for Grandma? There likely wasn’t going to be another tomorrow.
The thing is apples don’t fall far from trees and cups can seem empty for generations.
Seeing the cup as half empty is completely unhelpful.
Really — what’s the benefit of being anything other than an optimist?
I never asked Grandma that.
Sometimes I ask that woman in the mirror who looks her, who looks back at me.
That woman who may or may lay awake nights wondering if a son’s algebra grades flex enough muscle to pry him into university and if that business idea of his will leave him bankrupt and heart-rent, and if the sky will turn kinder so we can get this year’s crop in the ground.
Wondering how can we spend our lives to end poverty and stop oppression and if any of them will go out into this world loving Jesus more than their own comfort and double car garages and culture’s applause and their very lives and if their mother has wholly failed them or only just mildly ruined them. Kids eat garbage from dumps. I have yelled. They still bicker.
I see all who they are not. I haven’t hugged and prayed and asked for forgiveness enough. The economy could implode next month. I should bake more peanut butter cookies. They should be kinder. Years are ridiculously short and minutes can be relentlessly long and failures can seem eternal.
I have known it, the mornings that I have struggled to get out of bed, the days when I’ve fumed about all that is wrong in them and me and the world:
When we fixate on the worst in something, we render ourselves incapable of fixing anything.
But attend to the good in something — and we act towards the best in everything.
For our science studies, I sit in the middle of the couch, in the middle of a bunch of kids and I read about weather and seasons and the pressure of air.
“What do you know about this ocean of air you live in?” I read it from the newsprint, yellowed page.
“It’s hard to picture something you can’t see. It’s hard to believe something is real if you can’t look at it and touch it.” I’m reading words about air and thinking about God. “Are there ways to showing that air is real?”
The science book tells us to get a glass and a bowl of water and Malakai, he runs to the kitchen. We follow the instructions.
“Now turn the glass upside down and push it straight into the bowl of water.” I look up at Malakai, Shalom, Levi, all hunched over the bowl.
Kai plunges the glass into the bowl’s water. It doesn’t fill.
“Why doesn’t the glass fill with water?” Malakai grins, shrugs his shoulders.
“You thought the glass was right empty? In actual fact — it’s right full.” Malakai tilts his head at that angle.
I read the text
. “The glass doesn’t fill with water — because the glass is right full of air.”
And I tilt my head and re-read my life.
That rhetorical question asking if your glass half empty or half full? The truth is that the glass is never half empty — or half full.
The truth is the glass is always right full.
You may not be able to picture what you can’t see but only real things fill up space. And the real reality is that your glass is really right full.
And at this angle, the one with the glass so full that it pushes back an ocean of doubt, the world reads differently and the cynics don’t wear wisdom but the shoddy armor of the worried and wounded.
The cynics donning armor because they’re the aching, the afraid not wanting to be disappointed. It’s the cynics who have a limited, bruised vocabulary of no. It can seem easier to reject the world before the world hurts you again.
It’s the brave who say a prayerful yes, the brave and wise who believe that the faith-filled yes is what heals things.
It’s the brave and free who are the optimists.
And to be an optimist — for a moment, you first have to be a pessimist.
Because sometimes you can only be an optimist when you have a plan for the pessimist in you. So, you play out the law of Worst Case Scenario: What is the worst thing that could possibly happen?
And there aren’t wolves, trouble, kids, hatred, debts, messes, betrayal, teenagers, disease, lack, hard times, untruths, diagnoses, or disappointment that can possibly separate you from the love of God. Nothing can separate you from Him.
So the Worst Case Senario? Is only the scenario of not wanting Christ the most.
So the Worst Case Scenario — is only a possible scenario if you want something more than Christ.
If you want Christ the most — there is no worst case scenario.
Live and He’s using everything to shape you more into Christ and abundant life in Him.
Die and you have eternal life in Him.
Abundant life versus eternal life — it’s impossible to lose!
You can’t lose.
When you have a plan in place for the worst — you never go to the the place of worry. And the plan for when all hell breaks lose is that Christ’s already broken the power of hell and to live is Christ and to die is gain, so the plan is always joy.
I say yes to a boy who wants to try a crazy experiment of his own.
I begin to make loveliness by picking up one lego. Write one letter and a string of hopeful words to a child in a dump. Focus on the good in a struggler and a straggler. Believe just this moment that everything is being transfigured for His glory. Every step towards something beautiful already accomplishes something beautiful. Beauty and joy are found in every overcoming along the way.
I reach over and brush a hand with belief.
Only those who believe in the beautiful — can collaborate in the miraculous.
The new world is not a mirage. The Kingdom’s already coming. If you still long enough in prayer — you can hear its breathing.
You can hear the air filling the lungs of the resurrected and risen ones, filling all the earth.
On the sill, I leave this glass out.
This glass already and always right full…