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The Long Road of Hope

January 22, 2024

Jordan Durbin

Cultivating a Maker’s Life is a column that explores creative living expressed in a whole life. Generous, creative living is not something that is confined to a studio or workspace.  It is conceived in the garden, gestates on hiking trails, nurtured in cinnamon-scented ovens, and matures at family dinner conversations.  Come with me while we explore all the stages of making and living.


t winds and twists, past cows and under thick cover of maple trees.  There are few signs, and little in the way of fellow travelers.  I have never been on this road, and the hill I’m running up is steep and long, and I am nearly lost.  I want to cry – to sit down and see if someone will rescue me from the miles still ahead.  Alas, I have no phone, no watch, and my husband does not know my planned path this morning (I have since adopted much safer running habits).  No help is coming.  I must press on, but mentally I am fraying a bit at how many miles remain between me and water.  The only thing keeping my moorings intact is the fact that I know that somewhere past the peak, there is a left turn onto another road I do not know at all.  That left turn will lead me a couple miles to yet another turn.  

I know that next road.  It leads me home. 

That morning was nine years ago, and I was training to run a half-marathon.  Isaac, our youngest, was one year old, I was thirty-four, and feeling like a mother of five (whispers, “-hundred”).  I only had one real reason for engaging in this process – I wanted a challenge.  I wanted to see if I could actually run that far.  In the end, I didn’t run the event.  I had no idea when I started training how much the entry fee to a half-marathon cost (who pays that much money to be rewarded with that much pain?!).  Additionally, I was suffering from pretty severe plantar fasciitis, and lastly, I was already running thirteen miles in July when the event wasn’t until September.  I realized there was no way I could continue to commit the amount of time required to maintain the distance for the next two months. 

Nonetheless, the moment described above was somehow an extremely formative one.  I don’t fully understand even nine years later all that happened on that run, but I think about it a lot.  At any moment, I can mentally be running up that road in the early morning sun.  It is a vivid imprint on my memory.  I ran nearly five hundred miles in 2023, and I can’t count how many miles I have run since the one I just referred to.  There are a few runs that stand out, but none so much as that moment: alone, nearly lost, my body crying, and miles to go before I would sleep.  I told myself that day that I never wanted to run a half-marathon again – maybe never wanted to run more than a mile or two again.  I just wanted to get home, but the only way to get there was to keep going.

“In this world you will have tribulation.  But take heart.  I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33, ESV

The floors, walls, my hands, clothes, nostrils, and hair are all black with soot and pale with dust.  It shouldn’t be this way.  It is five days before Christmas, and our home should be sparkling with lights, gleaming clean, and fresh with the scent of pine trees.  I should be cheerily playing board games with my kids, drinking hot cocoa, wrapping presents, making toffee.  Alas, two days ago, we began demolition on the upstairs for a second bathroom.  I don’t want to do this job.  The emotions and grumpiness that installing a bathroom rouse in me are so similar to that running memory – angst, crying, wanting to sit down and not move another muscle.  The removal of an old chimney and repositioning several doorways have wreaked havoc on the state of our home.  It is a disastrous mess.  But there is hope.

These two-hundred-year-old walls and floors don’t appreciate being ripped into and changed.  My forty-four-year-old body doesn’t have nearly the energy that it did a decade ago when it labored twelve- or fourteen-hour days to restore the downstairs.  But the same thing pushes me forward into this work that keeps my feet on the trail or my hands in clay.  Perhaps there is only one fundamental reason for anything difficult we humans do on this planet – it is the confident hope that there are better things ahead.  

Last night, when the power tools were laid to rest for the evening, a new doorway had been opened into the bedroom shared by three of our boys.  The lintel is sturdy, supportive, and strong.  The studs are plumb.  It allows access in a much more logical, functional, and aesthetically pleasing way than the previous entryway.  It also brings daylight from their windows into a formerly very dark passageway.  That doorway is the first step to crafting a new bathroom, and has done as much for my attitude as it has for how our home actually works.  It is literally a light at the end of a long tunnel.

I have never been a “word for the year” person.  My word for this year and every year is the Living and Active Word of God, sharper than any two-edged sword.   I understand that, just as any good father, God parents each of His children individually, and I mean no disrespect or condescension at all towards the way someone else’s faith is lived.  This is just how my relationship with our Father is.

However, in 2023, I felt that Christ did call me to a “word of the year”, and it was not a fun one.  “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.” Repent of trusting in a well-stocked pantry, my acquired skill sets, the promises of people.  Repent, repent, repent.  There were days I did not know what to repent of, but the Spirit is so willing to help us in our weaknesses!  He would gently point to an unkind word, an unwilling heart, what could have been rather than what was, and repenting over these things brought me right to the heart of Christ.  

This process of repentance is a painful one.  It’s not a quick, one-time act, but it is more like training for a marathon – slow, continual humbling of my heart for the sake of pressing toward the gates of the kingdom.  I encourage you, dear reader, to spend a quiet moment repenting.  It is the good and right work of the saints and bears gloriously good fruit.  Our forefathers understood its immense value and were regular partakers in the labors of repentance.  Somehow, our modern age has convinced us that it is optional, unnecessary, redundant.  My friends, the kingdom of God is at hand!  Let us enter it drinking deeply from the cup of repentance.  Every step is one closer to that great, golden city.  It holds my mind’s eye fast, and I am running for all I’m worth to get there.  

Hope does this.  It captivates us, and while we could choose something other than to chase it, hope is so enchanting that we would never dare go after anything else!  Hope gives us a reason for the high price we must often pay, and though many around us may not see or understand the source of our hope, it is as sure as the air we breathe.  Hope cares not for instant gratification.  It is not intimidated by patient endurance, but delights in it, knowing that it is “preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17, ESV).   

Hope is a long, long road, but it is the one that leads home.

The featured image is courtesy of Aaron Burden via Unsplash. We are grateful for Aaron’s vision, skill, and generosity. 

The Before and After images are courtesy of Jordan Elise Durbin and used with her kind permission for Cultivating.


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