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Every Wife’s Choice: Chapter 13 Excerpt
“Love always hopes.” 1 Corinthians 13:7
Growing up overseas in an international arena flooded my world with color and culture through friendships and experiences I am continually grateful for. On the downside, however, it meant a colossal loss of my close-knit community when we all scattered to every corner of the world following graduation. To this day some of my closest relationships span the globe. One such friend in Australia hopefully awaits a sunny weekend for her outdoor wedding despite a pessimistic weatherman. A friend in Indonesia hopes her child recovers from a severe and sudden sickness in the midst of international travel, and another in Asia desperately hopes to prevent another miscarriage.
Three separate couples. Three separate countries. Each facing a monumental moment in life and hoping for the best.
I hope along with Sylvia that God provides a gorgeous day for their ceremony and keeps the rainclouds away. I hope with Hannah that they are finally able to finish their trip home and that God provides for the extra expenses their unexpected hospital stay incurred. I hope with all my heart that God answers my sweet friend’s prayers for a child because I understand her longing for motherhood; I have felt it in every fiber of my being as we’ve wrestled through the reality of infertility.
Several winters ago we traveled to meet a woman who made the brave choice to give the child within her a chance at life. Her decision to make an adoption plan instead of continuing with an abortion endeared her to me already. Her decision to choose us as the potential adoptive parents awed me beyond belief. I didn’t expect to find myself sitting in the maternity waiting room just two short weeks later, but my heart soaked up every moment of the motherhood experience. Excitement overwhelmed my husband, Teddy, and I as we stood by her side, hearing the heartbeat for the first time, listening to the doctor share with us that the baby was a boy, hanging on every word as he described measurements of tiny thigh bones, head circumference, and heart chambers. It looked like we had a healthy son on the way! I reached back, squeezed Teddy’s hand, wiped my eyes, and nearly pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.
Hope never meant so much before. I begged God to bring this baby into my arms, my home, my family, yet I could not count on it. I could not control the outcome. We were entering the adoption arena; a limbo land where numerous opportunities for disruption, disappointment, and devastation threatened to derail the anticipation of our son’s arrival. The legal process of adopting between states, the financial expectations, the possibility of either birth parent changing their decision, the potential influence of grandparents and other biological family members, mounds of home-study paperwork, and a host of other uncertainties weighed heavily on our hearts.
Our miracle baby has inspired many well-wishers to pass on their hopes for his future as a Fairchild, and I wholeheartedly agreed with them! I hoped for a healthy birth, I hoped for a smooth adoption finalization, I hoped for physical, emotional, and spiritual healing for his birth mother, I hoped she would remain a part of our lives as he grew, and I hoped the baby would grasp the significance of the story God was already writing with his life. I deeply desired all of these things, I wished for them with all of my heart, but I had no guarantee that my hopes would bloom into a happy reality. Every morning I woke up could be the day we got the phone call that we had been denied the adoption or that either birth parent had changed their decision.
This is our twenty-first century, western-world understanding of hope. We hope our families stay safe, our problems work out, the stock market rises and gas prices fall. We hope for a raise, for a good hair day, for a favorite team to win or an illness to pass. We hope for these things, but we do not always expect these things to happen.
Paul’s world two thousand years ago knew a different kind of hope. They viewed hope as a reality intertwined with a faith described in one of my favorite verses as the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not yet seen (see Hebrews 12:1). There is a mysterious quality to hope, an unseen, invisible nature that requires us to walk by faith and not by sight. The Greek term Paul uses in this verse of our study is elpizos, a verb in the present tense linked with a future realization. It conveys an action-oriented aspect to hope that has little or no bearing on our modern-day understanding of the word as mere wishful thinking. We view hope primarily as an attitude or emotion, an abstract concept as powerful as fear and impactful as faith, but disconnected to anything concrete or practical. Such was not the case when Paul penned this passage of Scripture.
Elpizos occurs elsewhere in the Bible thirty times. Each time it’s is accompanied by one of the Greek prepositions eis, on, or en. As you may remember from your elementary years, prepositions describe one object in relation to another. Each of these Greek prepositions express hope in relation to something or someone else. This verse of our study, however, is the only use of elpizos in the entire New Testament left all by its lonesome. There is no explicitly identified object for which or in which the subject is hoping. Paul simply says that love always hopes without tethering that hope to any specific object.
In the absence of knowing who or what our hope is meant to be anchored in, we often fill in the blank on our own. When it comes to marriage, we usually place our hope in ourselves or our spouse. We hope that we will be strong enough to continue making it work. We hope we remember to be patient and gracious, always speaking respectfully, always looking our best, being our best and never giving him a reason to feel disappointed in us. We hope he will take out the trash, spoil us with flowers and special notes, make his children a priority, be our spiritual head, always put us first and himself second. We hope that he will understand our point of view and the goodwill of our hearts; we hope he will learn to love us in meaningful ways; we hope he will cherish us through old age and wrinkles. In short we hope that we will be the princesses we always imagined ourselves as being and our husbands will be the unfailing knight in shining armor, the hero our hearts have always longed for.
The reality we’ve already discussed is that Mr. Right will never be Mr. Perfect. You may feel like you’ve wasted years hoping that your husband would change, that he would finally step up as the leader in your home or step down as the dictator he’s established himself as instead. You may have given up hoping that he would value your faith in the Lord, share your dreams, support your goals, or appreciate the wife you have tried so hard to be.
It should go without saying that you will never be Mrs. Perfect either! Years of trying may have led you to similar place of despair. You may have given up on being the wife that always has dinner on the table, laundry pressed and folded, and the house spotlessly in order. You may have failed at being the woman of infinite patience and grace with your children, in-laws, family pets, pesky neighbors, and every other person that crosses your path. Proverbs 13:12 indicates that hope deferred makes a heart sick, and some of you are suffering from a very sick heart, a heart weakened by one disappointed hope after another.
In the course of researching, studying, and praying through this chapter, I believe God sets forth a diagnosis. As women and wives we suffer from misplaced hope; too often we hope in the wrong person for the wrong thing. We need a healthy dose of redirection in two specific areas: the anchor of hope, and the action of hope.
When there is nothing anchoring our hope, it is aimless, set adrift on an ocean of uncertain, unpredictable waves. Anchoring our hope in ourselves or our husbands is like anchoring one boat to another boat and expecting them to stabilize each other. With both boats subject to the same swells and currents, however, whatever rocks one boat will rock the other. In especially stormy times, the winds and waves pulling at one boat will drag the other one deeper into dangerous waters, too. The stronger the wind, the surlier the waves, the more likely the two boats are to sink one another rather than stabilize each other. When the severest of storms finally subsides, spouses are often left stumbling along the beach like battered survivors surrounded by bits and pieces of their shipwrecked marriage.
Hope cannot rest in the strength or determination of any husband or wife. It is an expectation neither was meant to carry. As big and strong as my man is, my boat was never designed to be tethered to his in this way, and he has suffered the rope burns of my misplaced hope long enough.
I believe that Paul expected his reader’s to understand that the implied object of hope in 1Corinthians 13:7 is the One who created the colorful kaleidoscope we call love in the first place. I believe he expected his reader’s to understand that the object of our hope is the only One who is not subject to the storms of life, but who can silence the winds and the waves with a single word from His mouth.
“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassion never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:19-23
Life may have dragged your heart into dangerous waters; love may have disappointed you time and time again. Even so, there is safety in anchoring your hope to God. When the darkness of night has passed and the storm gives way to morning, you will not find yourself stranded and alone; He will be with you, His unfailing faithfulness surrounding you, His great love soothing you. Ladies, our hope, our expectations, cannot find fulfillment in our own strength and ability. They cannot find fulfillment in the men we have married. They are meant to be placed into the hands of Him who knows you and loves you like no other.
In the last chapter we focused on trusting the Lord despite our wounds and scars because He is worthy of our belief. He is just as worthy of our hope. What He promises will come to fulfillment, and our hope for that promised future need never waver no matter how dark the clouds get! It is no mistake that Paul links faith and hope together in talking about love; the two work hand in hand. To live out a love that always hopes requires action on our part, action anchored in the assurance that our hope will come to fruition at some point in the future because our God is able and faithful.
Understanding the intended Anchor of our hope is only half of the journey. The diagnosis for our hearts was twofold: anchor and action. In addition to knowing who we are to hope in, we must discover how that hope manifests itself on a practical level…
Thank you for reading this excerpt from EVERY WIFE’S CHOICE by Sarah Fairchild, available July 2015. Check back for more sneak peaks as we countdown to publication and be sure to like the facebook page for promotional discounts!
(If you missed the FIRST sneak peak, check it out here!)