One of my all-time favorite movies is The Shawshank Redemption. It is the story of a man falsely accused of murdering his wife and is imprisoned for many years in one of the most horrific settings you can imagine. It tells the story of Andy Dufresne who somehow faces the injustice of his life with a hope that someday things will get better.
One of the most poignant scenes in the movie is when Andy speaks with his friend “Red” about his hope to one day, if he ever gets out of prison, journey down to a small beach town in Mexico, fix up an old fishing boat and start a small tourist company. As Andy talks about his dream to Red, it becomes clear that Red gets uncomfortable.
Red: Hope is a dangerous thing, my friend; it can kill a man.
Andy Dufresne: Hope is a good thing – maybe even the best of things – and good things never die.
Can’t we all relate to Red? Doesn’t hope feel dangerous at times? We all know that feeling when something too good to be true presents itself to us, and we treat it like a flighty bird. We come close to lay hold of it, but we don’t want it to startle and fly away. So we end up watching and waiting with bated breath for those good things to either jump in our lap or fly away.
It is sad really…the uncertainty we have when it comes to hope. Because hope is that thing that lifts us up on eagles’ wings and gives us an elevated perspective in times of trouble. It is like a breath of fresh air in a world polluted by disappointment, regret and despair. But we fear the glorious heights because there is comfort in the known and the expected.
We would rather keep our feet grounded in our present circumstances for fear of being lifted up in hope to see a better tomorrow, only to fall again to the dismal reality of today. We comfort ourselves away from hope, reasoning that if the light of tomorrow never comes into today, that our darkness will only grow darker still.
In my life, this battle for hope played out in the early years of my marriage where me and my wife struggled to have a baby. After a year or so of “trying” to conceive, we found out we were pregnant. I remember it vividly because it was our two-year anniversary, and we went out that night to celebrate the good news!
But it wasn’t long after our celebration and expectation to meet our baby that Kristi began to have a miscarriage. It was still early, she was maybe only six weeks along, but I still remember the sting and hopelessness we felt when the doctor told us that we had lost the baby. The emotional swing is hard to describe unless you’ve experienced it yourself. But knowing how common miscarriages are, it is very likely that, if you are reading this, you have experienced this pain.
Two years would go by with the monthly reminder that disappointment grows heavy in light of unanswered prayers, and it comes to have a cumulative effect on your soul. As best I could, I knew I was supposed to put my hope in God and not an outcome…but it was hard. It felt like the God I knew to be loving, kind and good was withholding a genuine and holy desire of my heart. The more time that elapsed made it harder and harder to reconcile the nature of God with my circumstances.
The old proverb is true:
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. – Proverbs 13:12
It was the summer of 2011, and Kristi and I decided to take a trip to a Christian retreat center in Pembrokeshire, Wales. We needed a retreat, some time to recalibrate and refresh our hearts in the Lord and with each other. As many of us do in our seasons of waiting on unanswered prayers, we chose numbness and apathy instead of hope. It just seemed easier that way.
I wish I could say that each month I was filled with faith and joyous expectation that this would be the month we receive our little gift from God, but that wasn’t the case. I was numb. I was cautiously optimistic that one day we would have a child, but I just didn’t go there…it was too scary.
On about the third day of our trip, I decided to go for a walk in the hills. I remember this day like it was yesterday. The hills were so green and lush that even Augusta National would be jealous. It was raining slightly, and as I walked out the door, I heard a still, small voice in my heart.
“When you return from this walk, you will find out that you are going to be a father.”
Now, this was not a fluffy, vague promise that could someday be true. This had a shot clock. My own imagination or desire was playing tricks on me, or God had spoken to me. I remember walking all around those gorgeous Welsh hills pouring my heart out to God. I wept. I sang. I surrendered.
Walking down to our little cabin, my heart began to sink. What if it was just my own imagination talking? What if we are never able to have kids? These were the thoughts running through my mind.
I opened the door and Kristi was waiting, eyes like saucers. The long-awaited promise had arrived. Though we still had to fight through some fear and trepidation of having another miscarriage, time would prove that the work God had done in her womb would bring us the most perfect, precious gift we had ever received. And now, six years and three more kids later, I’ve realized that Andy Dufresne is right. Hope (in God) really is a good thing.
Featured Photo by Eniola Abioye https://goldheartchronicles.co/
Family Photo by David Porcheddu