Patti Richter, On Faith: Great – And Not So Great – Expectations

ROCKWALL, TX (Feb. 12, 2023) A young woman sat at her desk in an office that served university professors. She smiled at the sight of each vase of flowers delivered to her throughout the day—Valentine’s Day. She hadn’t expected this show of appreciation from those she worked for. Even so, she did hope for a bouquet from one certain young man; but it never came through the office door.

Arriving home in the early darkness of mid-winter, she carried a cardboard box that held the day’s bounty. As she set it down on the dining room table, her roommate pointed to the fireplace mantle and said, “You received one more.”

She might have been happy—or at least appreciative—of this show of affection from the man she wanted to marry. Instead, she took the vase of flowers, read the signature-only note attached, and, without smiling, placed it with the others.

If that long-ago Valentine’s Day included a test titled, Readiness for Marriage, the woman failed. I failed.

When my soon-to-be fiancé, Jim, visited later that evening, he saw the small sea of red on the table and asked if I had received his flowers. I acknowledged their arrival and thanked him in a matter-of-fact tone. Then it was his turn to fail that test. Instead of asking why I seemed disappointed, he responded with uncharacteristic anger.

Having behaved so poorly on a day that typically fuels both male and female expectations (which can be planets apart), we saw our need for wisdom.

Many of us bring to relationships both good and bad behaviors we observed growing up. We can claim our parents were imperfect and that we naturally respond as they did. Some others benefited from the example of very loving parents. Yet, no matter our background, marriage pairs us up in a way that reconfigures the challenge to love one another.

A man marries a woman who may not cook, clean, or dress as well as his mother did. A woman marries a man who might not wield a hammer or keep the cars and appliances running as her father did. Considering these factors, those who grew up with Leave-It-to-Beaver parents may have the greater handicap in loving well since their parents had made it all look so easy.

Whatever our stumbling blocks in the area of love and marriage, God’s word offers a clear path forward. In the apostle Paul’s first letter to Corinthian believers, we find “a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31*). Our relationships can stand on solid ground if we remember what constitutes love and what does not.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Cor. 13:4-7

Though Paul was not married, he pointed to our best example of love: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another…. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 4:32; 5:2).

The ability to love is not a gift we receive from God but, according to Galatians 5:22, a fruit of the Spirit that we must cultivate. And while some people enjoy richer soil, any of us can practice container gardening.

The Lord, “being rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4), knows what we have to work with. By following his ways, we can have great expectations.

*English Standard Version


By Patti Richter. Patti writes and edits Christian faith articles and has co-authored Signs of His Presence: Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering (March 2019). Read more of her essays at