Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Jumping Through the HOPES...Together

Note: This post includes many common idioms explained by clickng on the orange bold text.

Idioms are expressions that lose their original, literal meanings and are used to convey a more figurative thought. The confusion of idioms becomes obvious when talking to a student unfamiliar with the language. Imagine a foreign student new to English who asks an American friend if it is hard to get a visa to study abroad. His friend replies, "It's really a piece of cake if you have friends in high places, but it will cost an arm and a leg if you can't jump through all the hoops." When the words of those four idioms are translated literally, the inquisitive young man may think that getting a visa could be a delicious hike up a mountain or a horrible fall through amputating swords and hula hoops. Sometimes idioms are like that.

Take that last one I mentioned: "Jumping through the hoops." Its origins are from the circus (and venues like SeaWorld) where dogs, horses, lions, tigers (and seals and dolpins) literally jumped through hoops to entertain an audience. Why were these acts impressive? Because there is no natural reason to do it, and sometimes the hoops were on fire, which meant the animal was trained to ignore its natural fears. All this to get something in return (e.g. a treat, sugar cube, chunk of meat or fish). Circuses and SeaWorld grew less popular in the 21st Century as people became more sensitive toward animals, but the notion of "jumping through hoops" as an indiom lives on for humans. 

This idiom typically means that "the party of the first part" is willing to perform tasks imposed by "the party of the second part" with the hopes of getting something in return (a bike, a car, a diploma, a job, a degree, a visa, etc.)  "Jumping through hoops" almost always has a "task master" who places higher value on the "hoops" than those jumping through them. For this reason, the idiom tends to sound like a complaint by the person saying it, as if they fail to see the purpose in all the rigamarole (an idiomatic word with a story of its own).

While "hoop jumping" does have a negative connotation--right up there with "red tape." There is usually a "method to the madness" that is not all bad. 

For instance, this principle is at work wherever there are rules to follow. It makes competition fair: Nearly all sports (not just basketball) are basically a test to see which team can "jump through the hoops" better or faster than the other. It also brings order to our world: whenever you drive a car with a license and insurance and you buckle up, obey the stop signs, follow speed limits, and drive correctly down a one-way streets, etc. you're "jumping through the hoops" of making our streets safer.

It is frustrating, however, when the objectives are more difficult for some than for others. We value "fairness"--it's why there are weight classes in wrestling, and yet sometimes unequal things are matched up to compete. Surprisingly, sometimes a tortoise may beat a hare depending on what "hoops" are involved. Sometimes competition is like that.

It's also frustrationg when if the rules for "hoop jumping" change on a whim (e.g. if  the goal posts move from game to game). It's especailly frustrating if those creating the rules for "hoop jumping" seem to give themselves a "home field advantage" where the rules affect them less than others. I get that, but sometimes rules and rulers are like that.

It's confusing when the data behind "hoop jumping" is in conflict with other known data or when numbers and statistics seem to make some hoops more important than others. When Hank Aaron beat Babe Ruth's home-run record in 1974, he had the advantage of many more games per season, and when Barry Bonds beat Hank Aaron's record in 2007, it was later learned that he used performance inhancing steroids. Sometimes statistics are like that.

Sometimes the media and politicians can take several hoops and connect them like a big chain that is used to block something or change the natural flow of events. It's especially discouraging when the reason behind the hoops or chains seem to favor one group over another, and when the less favored group seems silenced by the same media. Sometimes the media and politics are like that.

I confess, sometimes I'm not happy with the media or politicians or  "red tape" and  "hoop jumping" that impose things into my life. Do you ever feel that way?

"After all," we tell ourselves, "We are not trained seals needing fish from someone else's hand.  We are not going through the motions to please men like caged animals in some circus cage. We were meant to live freely and to weigh the risks and rewards of our own hoops." 

I get that, and it's true, but as believers we are more than "free indeed." We are image bearers of Creator God. Even those who do not acknowledge Him are His image bearers, but they are not the light of the world. We understand that since the fall when sin first entered the world, God has held out the promise of restoring His original intent. He will restore the original meaning to His creation in His time. God's plan is like that.

In the meantime, His Word tells us that the trials of this life purify us like gold ... that sometimes its by deferring to "hoops" without complaining" that we beam in the darkness around us and shine like stars... (Philippians 2:15). 

So from here in our corner of the world, perhaps this is our time to shine to more than 200 nations/territories attempting to mitigate a new virus that has spread around the world in nine months.

All things considered, we are doing a pretty good job of mitigating the risks without losing all of the rewards of freedom. Sure, it is an imperfect and sometimes frustrating process, but let's not lose HOPE as we jump through the hoops.  

This, too, shall pass, and as long as TEMPORARY HOOPS CAN REMIND US OF OUR ETERNAL HOPE... and of what we believe and why we are here on this earth... so long as this can be said of us in these times... let us jump through the HOPES together and do whatever it takes to be exemplary as we gather safely together for school in the fall. Better days are yet to come. Sometimes life is like that.

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