The day of our last Bridge of Hope Night meeting we were informed that our speaker for the participants of the program (4 women that night) was not going to be able to come due to a death in her family. While I normally sit in with the mentors and help as needed there, this night I volunteered to talk with the women and have some discussion time. I shared the following story and we had some great conversations about the concept of hope and how it was playing a role in their journey. Some women felt that they were in the alleyway, remembering the restaurant while one woman felt the opposite was finally happening and she was working her way out of the alleyway. I read most of this book some time ago, but this story stuck in my memory and I thought I should share it here...
"Envision an exquisite five-star restaurant. You walk through the door and are gently jolted with the lull of conversation, the warmth of candlelight and luminous nooks, the mingled smells of several fine dishes. The room is festive and relaxing. The maitre d' ushers you to your table, causing you to feel not only welcomed but even expected and desired. You feel the the tension drain away as you prepare to enjoy the company at your table and the meal you anticipate as you scan the list of possibilities.
Looking up from your menu for a moment, you glance toward the kitchen and catch the eye of the chef, a kind-looking man. He acknowledges your gaze with a warm smile and a look that, in your restful state, says to you, "I am preparing something wonderful just for you. Wait. You'll love it. I'm doing this for you." You feel a twinge of embarrassment, but it is quickly engulfed in the sheer delight of thinking that something is being prepared with you in mind.
You love this place. Life feels right for a moment, and you take it all in. How could he have known what you love? You wait and converse and laugh and drink and wait. And then it arrives - the spectacular dish. All are served, and with gratitude you savor your first bite. Heaven. Perfection. How did he do this? You continue to imbibe and laugh, and time slips away...
Suddenly, a tap on your shoulder. Startled, you turn to see the maitre d' standing behind you with a firm look on his face. "I'm sorry, but I have to ask you to leave." You are certain there is an emergency and you request the details, but none are given. "No, I simply must ask you to leave. Please come with me." His voice is commanding and direct. You are stunned and embarrassed but feel compelled to follow, at least to see what this interruption is about. The maitre d' ushers you past tables of glowing faces and candles, then through the kitchen, where you look for the chef but see only busboys. You are taken out to the back door into the frigid night air, down the cement steps and into the alley behind the restaurant. Furious and confused, you demand an explanation, but all that is given in reply is the turn of the deadbolt lock.
You are stunned. You are alone. Trash cans, oily puddles, and the steam from a sewer vent make up your new surroundings. Welcome to the alleyway.
The most natural thing for us to do when we have been jolted into the alleyway by life is to think, This is where my hope is lost. My sweet dream has been snatched away, and hope has been snatched away with it. The wild reality of God, though, is that this is where hope begins. Hope begins when the memory of what was becomes a longing for what is to be restored.
This is the place where contemplating a posture of openness and childlike dreaming seems utterly ridiculous. This is where the journey of the heart can easily be indicted as foolish. And indeed, it is foolish - a foolishness that leads to life. It is the kind of outlandish living that Paul spoke of when he said we are fools for Christ's sake (1 Cor. 4:10)
...The question for us as women is, can we have eyes to see the redemptive purposes in the alleyway? Can we trust that God has not forgotten us and that in fact He has intentions for us in the alleyway that go beyond our wildest imaginings? He wants our hearts. And it is in the alleyway that He can get our attention long enough to prove it."
from The Allure of Hope -Jan Meyes