Every year, toward the end of the year, I pray about receiving a word for the coming year. This year, probably since my 2019 word was coddiwomple, nothing was coming to me. Not even a hint of indication in the direction of what the word might be. So, I let the expectation of having a new word for 2020 go. I figured worst case scenario, I’d keep coddiwomple, since it pretty much sums up all of 2019 (and maybe my whole life… I love and hate the word). Look it up. I know you’re wondering. But I won’t tell you about coddiwomple today.
Out of nowhere, as I was escaping in an historical fiction novel called Next Year in Havana, I came across this, regarding the word ojalá (Spanish for I hope): “There’s beauty contained in the word, more than the flippancy of an idle hope. It speaks to the tenor of life, the low points and the high, the sheer unpredictability of it all. And at the heart of it, the word takes everything and puts it into the hands of a higher power, acknowledging the limits of those here on earth, and the hope, the sheer hope, the kind you hitch your life to, that your deepest wish, your deepest yearning will eventually be yours.” – Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
Anticipation. Longing. Hope. Ojalá: it’s such a small word for so great a desire. As I read it, I knew it was my word for 2020. The Spanish word comes from Moorish influence and their saying “Oh Allah” or “Oh God.” I know this influence has been lost and nowadays ojalá, espero, and deseo in Spanish are mostly interchangeable. However, to me, this year, ojalá conveys an innate acknowledgement of “not my will, but Yours,” with a hint of grief mixed in for good measure. The word, at least in the context of my word-of-the-year, implies surrender.
Ojalá is not lighthouse hope or everyday hope, but somewhere in between. Lighthouse hope stays in one place. It’s high and lofty, something to draw us in from deep water into the shoreline (see previous post if you want more explanation). Sturdy, everyday hope keeps us afloat, especially when our lives are too chaotic to see the lighthouse hope. It keeps us from giving up and downing. But ojalá… it’s neither of these things but requires both.
Due to my inherent nerdy nature, I checked out the prevalence of the word in my Spanish Bible, then I compared those translations to the concordance translations in Hebrew and Greek. It’s ok, I can be a teensy, tiny bit neurotic. The most prevalent word I found for ojalá was a Hebrew word mi. It is found in Job and Psalms numerous times but is literally translated “Whom” or “Who,” but also means “oh that” or “if only.” Right, so not a direct translation to hope at all, huh. The Hebrew word followed by the imperfect in this case implies a wish or a desire that would be expressed if a person or context were present. Well that’s interesting.
New Testament translations were harder to come by. The closest thing I found was the Greek word ophelon, which means “would that” or “I wish” and is followed by an unattainable desire (1 Cor 4:8). Great. Unattainable desire. But then I consider the apostle Paul’s words in a letter to the Ephesians (3:20)… “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” and I know better than to lose heart.
Ojalá is high and lofty, like lighthouse hope, but it is without an anchor to the shoreline, making it a bit scarier to rest in. Where will it take you? Will it be fulfilled? With ojalá, there is an acknowledgement that our greatest desire might not be met, but that we will make do anyway, we will survive, we will move forward even if it doesn’t turn out how we expected it to; but we’re not letting go of the high and lofty, wherever it may lead. Now that’s the kind of hope I need.
Ojalá. What’s your word for the year? Do you have one?