Trystan Owain Hughes on Lent and hope
Trystan Owain Hughes, author of BRF’s 2021 Lent book Opening Our Lives reflects on the meaning of ‘hope’ in these challenging days.
‘What is your binge-viewing TV recommendation?’ asked a friend of mine on Facebook recently. Over 50 people replied with their enthusiastic recommendations – from rebooted classics like Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica to the contemporary trends like Tiger King and The Queen’s Gambit.
We have discovered a more unusual series that is presently gripping our evenings. For Life is inspired by a true story of a wrongly-convicted prisoner in a US jail, who trains and qualifies as a lawyer so as to fight against his life sentence. Produced by, and starring, the rapper 50 Cent, it is a fascinating series. Granted my view is rather biased, as I have always been a huge fan of prison films like Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, Cool Hand Luke, and Papillon. If any of these films were simply about the hardship and pain of prison, though, they would not inspire me as much as they do. What I love most about prison films and TV series is the fact that at their heart is one little word – ‘hope’.
It has certainly been a difficult year and the lockdowns have been particularly hard. I would never have guessed that I would spend so much time indoors in one calendar year – sometimes it does feel as if we are imprisoned. With the season of Lent on the way, I am not sure whether penance and self-denial will be top on my list of priorities this year. I usually give up chocolate, but sometimes I feel that an occasional chocolate orange or double decker is the only thing keeping me going through these difficult times!
When I started to write my new Lent Book, the word Covid was completely alien to most of us, Corona was a Mexican beer that we might occasionally enjoy on a hot summer’s day, and bubbles were things that made my kids scream with joy outside.
By the time I was finishing writing, my book’s theme – opening our lives – had come to hold a far deeper significance. In so many ways, our lives have seemed shut down over the past year. Many of us have spent most of our days indoors, with even shopping being delivered to us. Our work patterns have changed, quite a bit of schooling has taken place at home, and appointments are increasingly on the phone or online. While most of us remained shut indoors, to be writing about ‘opening’ our lives seemed hugely relevant.
After all, it is by opening our lives that we Christians can connect with that little word that runs through all my favourite prison films and TV series – hope.
Lent is certainly a time when ‘giving up’ something can be a helpful discipline. Likewise, ‘giving to’ a charity or ‘taking up’ particular acts of compassion can contribute so much to others. ‘Opening up’, though, especially at a time when our lives are so challenging, allows us to discover that hope is at the very centre of the Lenten journey. We open our eyes to recognise God’s presence, however difficult our journey. We open our ears to hear him call us to lives of transformation and justice. We open our hearts to his love, as we view the world around us as God himself sees it. We open our pain to his peace, as we allow him to be balm to our wounds.
Then, on Easter Sunday, we open our lives to that wonderful hope that brings freedom and liberation despite the hardships we are facing.
‘Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.’ (Shawshank Redemption).
Opening Our Lives, the BRF Lent book of 2021, is available to purchase here.