Love is never Hopeless.

waiting for a boy to become a man can be hard!

waiting for a boy to become a man can be hard!

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.

-          Bart

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.)

Quitters Make Terrible Lovers

I come from a family of quitters. Especially in relationships. In the Barrett family the tradition is when someone doesn’t do what you want, you cut them off. Forget about second chances or forgiveness. If you fail to meet expectations or cross the line, if you hurt someone, you are done.

This is how I did not speak to my father for 20 years. My father was offended by something I said so he cut me off. Over the years there was no contact, no communication. There were no change of address forms or Christmas cards. I did not even know how to reach him. I was nothing to him. I was not worthy of his time or his love.

My mom was similar. She was an alcoholic who eventually drank herself to death. 6 years before her death I called her when one evening when she was drunk. After that very uncomfortable conversation I decided not to chance initiating conversations in the future. I told her that she was welcome to call me at any time when she was sober but that I did not want to call her for fear that I would again catch her under the influence. 5 years went by before we spoke again, and we only spoke a total of two more times before she died.

My relationships with my three brothers have followed the family theme. I did not see or speak to one brother for 20 years, and another has not talked to me for the last two. The other brother has also shunned me at times, going for months without communicating, at one time telling me that he did not need people like me in his life. Turning away when hurt or offended seems to be the Barrett way.

My wife’s family is not like this at all. Her relationships with her sisters are not perfect and have seen their share of hurts and slights, there have been blow ups and arguments and disagreements, but no one has been cut off or left behind, and the sisters have always been sisters. Forgiveness and acceptance are more the norm.

The different attitudes about family relationships can be traced back to our parents. My mother was married four times, with each marriage punctuated with periods of separation before the ultimate divorces. My father was married three times, with all of them ending in divorce as well. My mother died estranged from her children, my father lives in a nursing home somewhere in Louisiana and has not seen any of his children in many years.Lisa’s mom and dad were married for over 50 years. There kids were not perfect and there were difficulties and arguments, struggles and pain, but their relationship endured. Theirs was a relationship that seemed to grow in difficult times, a commitment that never wavered or wobbled. They were truly a rock, immovable, unshakeable and untouched by any storm life could bring.

The difference in our families is love, in particular an aspect of love described by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 , “Love always endures.”

Lisa came from a family characterized by love, a love that was not and is not dependent on circumstances. Regardless of what life brings, in the morning love will remain. For my family, love was conditional and temporary.

By the grace of God Lisa and I have been blessed with enduring love in our home. We have been able to make her family heritage our family heritage, building a family with a sense of permanence in our relationships. My children sleep well each night knowing that as long as we live, their Mom and Dad will always be their Mom and Dad, will always be Husband and Wife, and will never quit on them or on one another. Love does this.

While there is no question that God wants this type of love to characterize our families, we need to remember that God wants this type of love to characterize our churches as well. Paul wrote his instructions to a church that struggled with politics and division, and his words were intended to correct their lack of commitment to one another. His words apply to our faith communities today as well. We are called to love one another with an unconditional love, with a love that endures and is not shaken or diminished with time. We will be hurt, let down and disappointed by others, but through it all there should be love.

  • Bart

PS: I am now talking again to the brother from whom I was estranged for 20 years. We are working on forgiveness, understanding and rebuilding a relationship. Love does that too!

This is part 12 in a series on Love based on 1 Corinthians 13.

A Doctor with Serious ADD Issues...


Some people say I have Attention Deficit Disorder. I think it is more information overload. My brain is continually filled to overflowing, swirling and churning with thoughts and ideas. So much so that my employees tell me there are times when I walk away in the middle of a conversation. They say something, I give a reply, and then I walk away when they start to respond. Like a dog who sees a squirrel something grabs my attention and off I go. I am oblivious.

This behavior is rather embarrassing and can lead to harm in relationships. It would be easy for my staff to get hurt feelings, call me a jerk and then complain to others about what an insensitive boss they had. They could use their knowledge of this behavioral flaw to embarrass me. They could, but my current employees don’t.

They do the opposite. Because they know my heart and my desire to do the right thing they not only overlook this fault, they actually take steps to counteract any harm. They cover me and protect me, they have my back. When we have new employees or students in the office they warn them, “Dr. Barrett can be a little ADD at times. It is hysterical, but sometimes he will turn and walk away in the middle of a conversation. Don’t be offended, it’s just him!”

This is what people do when they care about someone. They cover over the flaws of others and protect their weaknesses.

Paul addressed this, saying “Love always protects.” One way to interpret his words is to say that like a roof, love always covers.

This is a characteristic of healthy relationships and particularly of healthy marriages. We look out for one another and step up to defend and protect one another. We do not take advantage of our knowledge of weaknesses to make ourselves look good, instead we intentionally act to keep others safe.

While this is important to do in marriage, it is important in all of our relationships, in our families, our work relationships, our church relationships and friendships. It is not easy, it can be risky, but it is what love does. This raises the question- Are you a protector?

- Bart

This post is the 10th in a series on love, taken from the Bible passage 1 Corinthians 13. Since all of us need to be more loving, consider sharing these blog posts with your friends.