Part 1 of an interview with Cynthia Ruchti,
Author of A Fragile Hope
In A Fragile Hope, Cynthia Ruchti shows how hope grows when seeds are planted-even in the muddy middle of life.
Josiah Chamberlain’s life’s work revolves around repairing other people’s marriages. When his own is threatened by his wife’s unexplained distance, and then threatened further when she’s unexpectedly plunged into an unending fog, Josiah finds his expertise, quick wit and clever quips are no match for a relationship that is clearly broken.
Feeling betrayed, confused, and ill-equipped for a crisis this crippling, he reexamines everything he knows about the fragility of hope and the strength of his faith and love. Love seems to have failed him. Will what’s left of his faith fail him, too? Or will it be the one thing that holds him together and sears through the impenetrable wall that separates them?
Q: Your leading man, Josiah, is a well-known marriage expert yet he failed to notice how his marriage was crumbling around him. How did he miss the warning signs?
Even in the best marriages, couples often misread the signals their partner is giving. It can range from things as simple as “Can we turn up the furnace?” to as complicated as “I’m more miserable than I can explain.” When the husband or wife – or both – become consumed with their own needs or the demands of their jobs or never-ending concerns for their children, they can miss the subtle hints their neglected marriage needs attention. Josiah isn’t alone in failing to practice what he preaches. We’ve probably all been guilty of that, especially when stressed or overwhelmed. In Josiah’s case, an air of arrogance and self-absorption – both born from his past hurts – contribute to his missing the warning signs.
It’s natural to become absorbed with our own problems and concerns, our own responsibilities and even our diligence to respond to the needs of the people around us and miss what’s going on in our homes, with the people we love the most, who mean the most to us. What do we miss in our spouse’s facial expression when we’re glued to our phone screens or computer screens? What sighs are we neglecting? What busyness could be more important than staying connected with our family and with God? Yet it happens all too often. What if all we changed about our relationships is that we paid attention? What might happen? Neglect can kill a marriage as dramatically as betrayal. Josiah might have made that a speaking topic. He wasn’t prepared to see it lived out in his own home.
Q: Given his career, one may argue Josiah should have been equipped to face a crisis. What strengths helped him through the most difficult time of his life, and in what ways could he have been better prepared?
When the crisis is in its infancy, Josiah’s education and experience almost get in the way. He trips over his own advice. Eventually he learns how to wade through his quick-tip counsel and toss everything that doesn’t align with counsel of a much higher level than his own thoughts. His faithfulness to his wife and to his underdeveloped faith – even when it doesn’t make sense to remain faithful – serves him well. What a lesson for all of us! When Josiah begins to lose his tentative grip on hope – hope that Karin will ever come back to him, hope that what they’re facing won’t be as bad as it looks, hope that God will intervene somehow – he falters.
Josiah and his audiences and reading public all considered him an expert at relationships, but so much of it was theory that fell apart in the harsh light of betrayal.
It’s often when we feel the most sure of ourselves that life will smack us in the face with a reminder of our relative weakness. God invited us to lean on Him, assuring us that when we feel the weakest, His strength will rise to cover us. When hope looks paper-thin, God assures us it is not. It’s an anchor for our soul.
Q: Can you share the progression and growth Josiah made throughout the story? How important were the mentors who came along during the journey?
Without giving away too much of the story, one of the primary ways Josiah grew was in his understanding of love’s truest definition. He thought he knew. Don’t we all? As the story progresses, so does his understanding of what love really means, what it really looks like, how it responds in crisis. He had the advantage of a couple of mentor-like characters who helped clear away the fog in his thinking, who helped anchor him and served as listening ears when he was finally ready to talk. The emotionally healthy among us can point to people whom we consider our mentors, friends or family who play the listening ear role. Josiah rejected the help of some who reached out to him. Eventually the people who did serve that vital role in his life – redirecting his self-absorbed thoughts, reconnecting him with the God of hope, standing by him no matter the circumstances – were people who had come through their own distresses with integrity. They lived lives of grace, which made them great candidates for offering trustworthy advice.
As important as mentors are, we can’t advertise, “I need a mentor!” Usually a mentor/mentee relationship will develop organically. We observe those around us who navigate personal crises with rock-solid faith and unflappable hope. They don’t unravel. Love is a hallmark of all they do. That’s a mentor worth following.
Q: All of your books address hope in some way. How did hope become the center of your writing?
In my early days as a novelist, which has really been less than 10 years ago, I used the tagline “Hope that glows in the dark.” Hope sometimes shows up best against a dark backdrop. However a few years ago, as I considered what it was about hope that made it appealing, needed and accessible, I adopted a new tagline: “I can’t unravel. I’m hemmed in Hope.” I tell stories hemmed in hope, whether through novels, novellas, devotions, nonfiction or speaking events. Hope is in short supply these days for many people, but God has an abundant supply of it for us. When we embrace that truth, we can truly be hemmed in hope.
Q: What is the message you hope readers take away from reading A Fragile Hope?
“Disappointment and betrayal are always more layered than we imagine. Hope is always stronger than it appears, even at its most fragile.”
In addition to hoping readers will finish the book with a satisfied sigh, I pray they’ll also have gained a deeper appreciation for the power of love and the strength of hope. Fragile? It only seems that way.