How do you hold on to hope in the midst of despair?
To answer that question, you can read the seven trillion self-help books on Amazon, or you can spend hours listening to YouTubes and Ted Talks.
My preference, however, is to go the simple route. All you need is love, a tiara, and a cupcake.
Let’s start with the cupcake. Who doesn’t love a cupcake? Maybe it reminds us of childhood. Maybe we just love sweets. Maybe it’s because it’s tiny. Whatever the reason, a cupcake just makes us smile.
We all have our own cupcake—that person, place, or thing that brings lightness and joy. What’s yours?
Of course, some of you may be thinking that given the state of the world, you just can’t smile. You don’t even remember what makes you smile. I get it. But when I need a way to remember my smile, I read Psalms 43:5: “O my soul, why be so gloomy and discouraged? Trust in God! I shall again praise him for his wondrous help; he will make me smile again, for he is my God!”
So, we start by remembering our cupcake, our inherent gift of joy. Then, we need a tiara. Everybody knows that you need a little swagger to wear a tiara. You need a little pride in yourself to wear a crown. These days, however, pride is hard won in the fight against the constant shame of the world.
People love to shame. But we also know, at least intellectually, that the need to shame comes from that person’s own shame. It comes out of their own fear, their own self-loathing, their resentment about what’s not right in their life.
Here’s the good news: we all have the power to refuse to be shamed. Again, hear the Psalmist, this time in Psalm 34:5: “Those who look to the Lord are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.”
Our pride comes from the knowledge that we are perfect and beloved children of God. In other words, when we were born, God crowned us with a radiant tiara—a holy stamp of approval, a sign of our belonging. And when we refuse to be shamed, that tiara shines like a beacon declaring our holy worth. Just as important, it reminds others that they, too, have the power to refuse to be shamed.
And so we find our cupcake, put on our holy tiara, and then march out into the midst of the world’s excruciating pain and begin to love.
Recently, I received an extraordinary email from a woman of color in my congregation. She said, “Right now is such a tumultuous time, but I have hope because among all this unrest, human compassion has never shined brighter.”In the crosshairs of racist violence, it was love that kept her hope alive.
Brothers and sisters, the power of human compassion—of love—is dazzling. It can build bridges, mediate anger, and comfort our fearful hearts. Never has the world needed it more.
The human heart is an amazing thing. Science has estimated that within an average human lifespan, it beats approximately 2 billion times.
Here’s my question: How do you want to spend them?
Do you want your heart burning through those beats in fear, stress, and anger?
Or do you want every one of those precious rhythms to be a beat of love, compassion, and kindness?
It’s a painful, aching time in this life. But even now, we can be brave and cling to hope. Out of the chaos of these times can come a better day. And it’s up to us—you and me—to usher that day in.
Find your joy, don your radiance, and open your arms in compassion. In the end, remember that it’s just three simple things can change the world: love, a tiara, and a cupcake.
— A trial lawyer turned stand-up comedian, Baptist minister (and Harley rider), Rev. Susan Sparks is the senior pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City and the author of three books, including her newest, “Miracle on 31st Street: Christmas Cheer Every Day of the Year – Grinch to Gratitude in 26 Days!” Contact her through her email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or her website, www.SusanSparks.com.