It is very hard to look at a 13 year-old boy and accurately forecast the probability of future success. For my son Nate it was darned near impossible. The standard indicators of future success- a clean room, completed chores, and finished homework, were noticeably absent. At that age it seemed that his greatest hope for success in the world was dependent on there actually being a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion. If there was one (or two) things he was really good at it was killing aliens and zombies. It was a skill honed and developed through hours of practice that arose out of a singular devotion to duty.
As a father it was incredibly frustrating. Like many dads looking at his cluttered room and hearing the endless video game explosions led to visions of my son standing at an intersection with a piece of cardboard that said “Will work for food.” (Although the thought that he might actually be willing to work was slightly comforting.)
My frustration was in large part my own fault. I had unreasonable expectations for a 13 year-old. (My wife will say that I also had unreasonable expectations for a 14, 15, 16, and 17 year-olds as well.) I was basing my opinion totally on what I saw with my eyes. I was ignoring two important things that I could not see- the goodness of his heart, influenced by the Biblical teaching that was a large part of his life, and the bigness of our God, who Nate had made a commitment to at a young age.
I was allowing present circumstances and performance to completely determine my perception of the future of my child. I was stupid, and on many occasions I did not show him love as I should have, for love does not only believe in the good intentions of someone’s heart for the present time, love believes that goodness of heart will result in good in the future. This belief that the future will be better has a name. It is called Hope.
Paul listed Hope as one of the characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13. “Love always hopes.” Even when current evidence is lacking, even when someone is failing right in front of us, when it comes to relationships with those we love, our family, especially our spiritual family, true love brings hope. Hope that the future need not be defined by the present. Hope that God is able to make broken people whole, that God can change lives for the good.
It is difficult to hope sometimes, difficult to believe that the future can be better. We need God’s help to love like this, need Him to remind us that He is in control, need to trust His ability to work in the lives of those He loves. But if we love others and love God we must trust, for love always hopes.
I had hope for my son. If I had allowed his dirty room and video games to define him, I would have not encouraged him to be more and do more. My hopes were not disappointed as he has since exceeded my hopes for him. He is a good man, a loving husband, and a devout believer. He is still equipped to deal with the coming zombie apocalypse, but he is also finishing a law degree at UCLA, and working for the District Attorney, where he is displaying a talent for dealing with real life bad guys. Thank God for hope.
This is the 13th post in a series on love based on 1 Corinthians 13. If you have been encouraged by this post, please consider sharing it. If you have a story or comment to share, please share it in the comments. You can be sure to receive all future posts in your email by subscribing to the blog as well. (Link is upper right on a computer, at the bottom of the page on a mobile device.)