By Anthony Casperson

I’m going to take a two-week break from our quick series looking at the “I Am” statements in John’s writings. We’ve finished the list from the Gospel written by John, and there are only two found in the book of Revelation. So, for a break to need to happen, this is the best time.

Mostly, I want to share a couple of thoughts that I had during GenCon last week. I feel that time-wise it’s best to write them now.

Anyway, the actual blog post follows.

Last week, I was at GenCon. It was my first and the convention’s 50th. Though I had mixed feelings about the sold-out convention (mostly because I’m a large, super-introverted person that can quite easily experience what I call “people claustrophobia”), there were quite a few fun moments.

Patrick Rothfuss had a 2-hour event where he talked and answered questions. There was an amazingly informative session called, “How to Start and Grow a Geeky Blog.” (I wonder why I liked that one?) I got to go onto the Indianapolis Colts football field, where board games were being played by nerds and a museum devoted to the history of GenCon had been erected.

But my favorite part was actually standing in line for hours on that Saturday.

The night before, I had seen a tweet sent out by Matt Mercer, the DM for Geek and Sundry’s show Critical Role. It said that the cast was going to be doing a signing on Saturday from 3-6 p.m. And while there had been 250 tickets, they were sold out almost immediately, long before I ever saw the tweet. But Matt said not to worry, they’d let people in who hadn’t bought tickets as well.

That sounded good to me. A couple of days earlier I’d gotten the setting guide Matt had written. So I brought it, found out where to go, and went to line up.

It was about 1:20 p.m.

I discovered what was going to happen was that those who had bought tickets would get their signatures first, and the rest of us (which the guy behind me in line dubbed the “low-born peasants”) would have a chance after them. It seemed reasonable that they could at least get some of us in the “hopeful line” before the signing was over.

I was the tenth person in that line.

Time went on. Person after person walked in front of us because they had a ticket. And the hopeful line grew, doubling over on itself even before the cast came out.

They came out at about 2:45 p.m.

Those of us in the hopeful line talked with each other about our enjoyment of their show and several other things. Meanwhile, some tried to do the math. “Okay there are about 20ish people per row [among the ticketed people] in the stadium seats. And there are 7 rows of people.” “They’re getting a row done every 15-20 minutes. We should be good.”

About 4:15 they were done with over half of the people in the seats.

Our hope grew. A few more ticket-holders had come in, but we in the secondary line figured some of us would still get in. Constantly hearing the count of one person or another to judge how quickly the cast was signing, it seemed good.

But then the cast began to slow down.

By 5 p.m. the ticket-holder seats had grown an additional couple of rows. They had come with an hour left in a 3-hour signing while some of us “low-borns” had been in line for over 4 hours!

Hope began to wane.

The conversation moved from jovial-natured talks to a constant count of “Will we make it?” At about 5:30 it seemed like all hope was lost. A lady in a red shirt, one of the event aides, came over to us to tell us that the cast wouldn’t be able to get to any of the non-ticket-holders.

A wave of disappointment as hope left the “low-borns.”

I could see the table where the cast sat. They actually weren’t that far from the “low-born” line. So, I figured I’d wait until I could get a clean picture of the cast and be content with that. I’ve dealt with having to settle for less than what I hoped for before. I could deal.

Red Shirt came back at 6 p.m.

She flat out told us that there was no chance of us getting any signatures, and basically told us to leave. The cast still had another two lines of people to get through and they had somewhere that they needed to be shortly. (They had a concert to get to for a friend at 7 p.m.)

That broke many of the “low-borns.”

Over the next 15 minutes our line dwindled from probably over 200 people to 25-30. And Red Shirt, who had been trying to speed as many people through as possible to begin with, quit trying to speed things up. Looking back at us with glares of “why haven’t you people left yet?”

A couple of other aides working the lines came over to us. One of them said that two members of the cast (Laura Bailey and Travis Willingham) had decided to do a quick signing for those of us still in line. Laura had even looked over at us and said “You all have been so patient.”

It was more than we had expected. The few of us left were excited. The line of ticket-holders was still going at about 6:30. I finally got a good chance for a picture of the cast from afar. And figured that the rest of the cast would at least wave goodbye to us, so I readied my phone to take another picture.

And then Red Shirt stepped up to Laura and Travis.

The person in front of me (I was now fourth in line), said that Red Shirt was trying to talk the couple from coming out to us ticket-less people. But Travis adamantly said “I’m not going to do that to them” and settled the argument.

About 6:45, one of the other aides told us to get the one thing we wanted them to sign. They’d shoot through the line and sign. Expecting just two of the eight in the signing to come to us, I was surprised when the whole cast stood up and moved as one to our line.

While the ticket-holders had to go to them, the cast came to us.

One by one, they reminded us of the precedence that the cast sets for a community of people who are giving, caring, and will do their best to be kind to one another. (It’s what I hope we followers of Jesus can be [and should be], but more on that next week).

We who stood firm in our knowledge of the type of people that the cast of Critical Role are, discovered our hope fulfilled beyond even what we imagined it could be. The cast was late for their friend because they showed us kindness.

We had hoped for a signature, what they showed us was love.

Hope is something that I didn’t believe came easily for me. There’s a reason why one of the earliest (and longest) posts was entitled Hope On A Rope. And it’s one of the reasons why I continue to write about hope, like I did two weeks ago in the post titled Life After Darkness.

Hope doesn’t come easily to someone who’s spent so much of their life in the depths. The depths diffuse the light of hope to mere shadows.

I needed to be reminded about hope.

During the car ride back to the hotel, I started crying. Not because of the signatures of the cast of Critical Role. But because God spoke to me in that moment.

A voice in my head spoke quietly to me. “You think it’s difficult for you to have hope? You study and look at hope in the here and now because you find it difficult to attain? What is hope in the present sense?”

Hope is standing firmly in what I know to be true regardless of circumstantial evidence.

“What did you just do in that line? When you were told it wasn’t going to happen what did you do?”

I stood, knowing that they would give me the chance for the least bit of what I would settle for: a picture from long range.

“And what did you get for standing there?”

More than I’d ever expected in the situation.

“Is that not hope? When faced with adversity, when the crowd around you was decimated, when the pain in your body ached and you wanted to leave, you stayed. You stood in hope. How can you think you have difficulty in standing firm in hope with the God who loves you, knows you by name, and died for you, when you found it so easily for a group of fellow human beings who probably still don’t know your name, even though they do care for their community? Hope isn’t hard to find. It’s ready to keep you steady when your feet ache, your legs tremble in weakness, and you’re so exhausted that you feel like you’ll fall over.

God is there reminding us of the fact that hope in him is not difficult. It’s the circumstances around us that lie to us and tell us it’s impossible. But it’s also the circumstances that allow us to showcase the hope we have in him.

He will not disappoint because he loves us more than any human being possibly can. And he proved that the day he died for us. He looked at us, hopeless, and said, “I’m not going to do that to them.”

Circumstances will beat us down, but God will give us far more than we can ever imagine. And when that day comes where our hope is fulfilled, he will come to us and give us a gift far greater than his signature. And we will stand.