A Thrill of Hope
And now these three remain: Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13.
As Christmas approaches, love is the overriding theme. And while I wouldn’t dare quibble with Paul about the greatness of love, I’d like to make a good solid case for the significance of hope.
In today’s world, we often diminish hope to a meager wish. I hope the weather is nice. I hope I have a good hair day. When faced with dire circumstances though, the magnitude of hope becomes clear, and it shifts from a fleeting thought to the very thing that keeps us afloat.
When Chris was first diagnosed, I hoped that he would be cured. I hoped that the cancer would be eradicated from his body, and he would live to see his children grow. Over time, my hopes changed. I hoped that he would live to see Josie turn four. I hoped that he would feel well enough to play a little golf. Then, in the hardest moments of my life, I hoped that his pain would end. I hoped that, as Kate put it, God would heal him in heaven.
Then, when he was gone, I hoped that I would hope again.
If love is, as Shakespeare wrote, “an ever fixed mark,” an unwavering pillar, a lighthouse that never moves in the storm, then I think hope is our destination. An ever-changing shoreline that we seek out. While it may not be fixed like love, our need for hope is just as constant.
Which is why Christmas seems the most fitting time to introduce you to some new and hopeful things occurring in our lives.
I first met Jonathan and his children, Tad and Madeline, a few years ago at Grace Church. He was a constant fixture each Sunday, kneeling with his children by his side. Chris and I often tried to discern what magical cocktail he gave his children to get them to behave so well. Mostly we respected his devotion to his kids. Over time, we became friends, often having brunch together with our friends the Solsbys. Jonathan followed our story faithfully. The kids prayed for Chris and our family each night. He was an usher at Chris’s funeral.
After Chris died, we stayed friends. A native of Rochester, NY, Jonathan was kind enough to shovel my walk when the snow was too deep last winter and dropped off rock salt for the stairs. One day after church, he mentioned to me that he had tickets to an event in Alexandria. He offered to drop them at will call if I wanted to go. I found that I did want to go. And in fact, I wanted to go with him. I told him that will call was unacceptable. That he should pick me up. I bought a new dress. Jonathan was uncertain about this idea. But my persistence won out.
This past summer we began spending time together every weekend with the kids. Splashing at the pool, cooking out on Sunday afternoons. Getting to know each other slowly and thoughtfully. In August, we packed all four kids into the minivan and drove to Savannah to spend a week at the beach. I introduced Jonathan to my family there. He passed the Battle test with flying colors.
I learned that, sadly, there is no secret cocktail to getting your kids to behave in church – just repetitive teaching. I’ve also had the great joy and honor to get to know Tad and Madeline and have delighted in watching them occasionally misbehave.
I could list all the special things about Jonathan. That he is handsome and a great golfer. That he enjoys doing the dishes with me. That he’s an accomplished attorney. But what I really want you to know about him is that he is the most hopeful person I’ve ever met.
When his marriage ended five years ago, all that he had hoped for changed. His course was drastically altered. He could have become angry and bitter, but instead, he charted a new course. He focused on creating a life for his children that would show them that, despite their circumstances, they are still loved equally by two parents.
I know that you will all ask the very important question about how Kate and Josie feel about all of this. It’s been interesting to watch this process unfold. What I’ve found through our journey is that children look very directly to us for guidance. We are their lighthouse, and when our light shines brightest, they are comforted and feel safe. Seeing me happy has made them happy. They adore Jonathan and thrive having Tad and Madeline in the house. We’re smart people though. We know that change is hard for children – so we’re taking things day by day.
Change isn’t easy for adults either. Each of you will greet this news differently. That’s OK too. Take your time and process it as you need to. I hope it brings you joy!
My grief for Chris will never end, but the presence of grief doesn’t require the absence of hope. I’m reminded of this fact by the words from my favorite Christmas song, “O Holy Night:” A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Merry Christmas dear friends – may you know the thrill of hope!