Wonder, Grace, and the Great Gilly Hopkins

Ah, Gilly! The child who spent most of her inner energy wishing for stability, while her actions indicated that she wanted otherwise . . . How often have we each encountered those very same conflicting emotions – and reacted with similar results? We wish for someone or something upon which we can depend, yet our behavior often suggests that the opposite is true. The answer would seem simple: That upon which we concentrate most is often what unfolds in our lives. If we concentrate most on what we do not want, then that is what Universe will send our way. In some circles, it is believed that Universe does not know the difference between I-want and I-do-not-want; Universe only knows where each person’s energy is being directed, and so sends those things or situations that have attracted the most attention. Gilly put most of her energy into pushing away what she did not want, rather on embracing than what she did want. Of course, for most of her life, she did not know what she truly wanted; like most of us, since she knew more about what she did not want, she put more emphasis on that, rather than on finding ways to attract what she did want. It is no wonder, then, that when her heart’s true desire came in the form of Mrs. Trotter and the people in her world, Gilly did not recognize the gift she had been given. Has this not been true of each of us at various points in our journeys?

Like many of us, Gilly truly wanted dependability in the midst of contingency. All of life is contingent, even in the best of circumstances. A stray bullet, an errant driver, a well-timed bolt of lightning . . . any of these can disrupt and end life as we know it. Within the tiniest fraction of a moment, the life that we thought we knew and loved could vanish, leaving each person to face the choice of whether to pick up the pieces left behind or to start anew from nothing at all. Was this the choice, we sometimes wonder, that God faced? Was there some cosmic Big Bang where the inhabitants of a world similar to this blew themselves up, leaving God with a choice of whether to pick up the pieces and begin again, or to start anew with a voice in the midst of a void? The essential nature of life, from which we often run, would seem to be the very simple fact that none of this has to be as it is, right in this moment. All that we think we know could dissolve, and the dissolving disillusionment that follows is part of a process that most of us seem to fear and try to avoid at all costs. That is where Gilly – and we – make our most telling mistake: We begin concentrating so much of our energies on (avoiding) contingency that we fail to recognize and embrace the dependability we so earnestly desire from within. Desire, like love, is static until we focus energy on it. In other words, until desire becomes a verb with which we imbue with energetic action – showing, seeking, discovering – it can only remain a word on a page, sometimes less than a fleeting thought through the mind. Until we put our hearts and souls into living the dependability we so desire, into – in Gandhi’s words – becoming the change we wish to see, we will continue to attract that which gets the most attention: the chaos of contingency.

The key would seem to lie in embracing contingency as part of life’s process, thereby freeing us to focus our energies on becoming the dependability that we seek in the midst of the chaos. How can one depend on one’s faith, if one does not concentrate one’s energies on being faithful? How can one depend on God’s love and grace in times of trouble, if one does not concentrate one’s energies on being loving and grace-filled in the midst of the chaos that others experience? Rarely does God’s grace and love come gift-wrapped in a package that falls on us from outer space. Most often, God sends love and grace through other people in ways that can only be recognized from within, first. In order for grace and love to be felt from within, it would seem that it must come from within, first. This is the lesson that Gilly – who represents each of us children of God – learns late and, of course, the hard way. She, battered by her frequently broken heart, does not recognize that she has arrived at the home for which she has most longed. Life’s contingencies have ripped the rug from under her so many times that in an act of final desperation, she rips her own rug from under her own feet, and must live with the consequences that she has created. Fortunately for Gilly – and for us – the story does not end there, for in doing so, Gilly ends up in the home of the one living entity who helped create her, just as we will eventually return to the Home of the One Living Entity who created each of us. The wonder of it all is that for the many times we get lost and lose ourselves, we make it Home at all. It is enough to make one wonder whether God has installed the Spirit as some sort of homing device, so that no matter how lost we cause our souls to be, they return to the One who is never lost, but only hidden deep within.

Gilly Hopkins is great, indeed, as is each of us. Through her story, we can interpret our own journeys. For, is it not so that each of us goes through many foster homes – places that were dependable only for a season – before we finally reach Home? Is it not so that when we feel tossed aside by contingency, we become confused into thinking that contingency created us, and so we must also become contingent in our own interactions with ourselves and with others – and with God? Is it not so that after a lifetime of creating contingency, we forget what true dependability really looks like, and so, looking through our human eyes leads us to fail to see it when it does arrive? And, is it not so that it is only after we have propelled ourselves from the embrace of true dependability that hindsight can finally show us what we have missed, and that it is only then that we begin to realize that we must put energy into becoming what we want to have, instead of putting that energy into not having what we do not want?

When you are hungry for eggs, it is pointless to reach into the refrigerator with only the intent of not grabbing the bacon. For when your only intent is to not grab the bacon, sure enough, it will be the bacon that leaps into your hands first; the eggs will never even have a chance. Likewise, when dependability is what we seek, it is pointless to reach within Universe, with only the intent of avoiding contingency. For if we reach within Universe, with only the intent of avoiding contingency, sure enough, it will be contingency that will leap toward us first; dependability will never even have a chance.

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