Within just the first few moments of the beginning of Elizabeth Thatcher’s journey into Coal Valley, she reminds herself that she can “face any obstacle with courage, grace, and dignity.” Little does she know that the most challenging obstacle will not come in the form of the bandits robbing the stagecoach or in helping a struggling student in the classroom. As it is for all of us, the most challenging aspect along this journey is the need to confront her own faults and weaknesses to become who the Lord has designed her to be.
I fall in love with Elizabeth Thatcher and Mountie Jack Thornton over and over again, each time I relive their story from the beginning, for it is in the beginning that their shortcomings send “sparks flying” as Abigail recalls in her wedding reception toast in this week’s episode, “My Heart is Yours.” Jack’s overly-confident attitude about chasing “outlaws and whiskey-runners” in Cape Fullerton nearly leads him to abandon the calling God placed upon him. And in her hot-headed response to him, Elizabeth attempts to show Jack (and the rest of Hope Valley) that she is not a “princess” who needs someone to take care of her “stubbed toes.” In just one season, these two characters mature from enemies to fast friends who would finally admit that they care for each other. Within that new friendship, they also discover their God-given callings: one to serve and love the children of the town, the other to protect his loved ones and to “fight the good fight.
In season 2, they battled through challenges with family, different backgrounds, and society’s expectations. Fears about the past and the future nearly tore them apart. In fact, at the end of season two, Elizabeth breaks down in tears and admits to Jack that, while he is brave, she isn’t sure she is brave enough to be with him. Working through these fears of losing each other allowed them both to develop the inner strength they would need to overcome Jack’s near-drowning in the flood and his bout with pneumonia, Elizabeth’s removal from the classroom, and Jack’s deployment to the northwest territories. It has only been the events of their journeys that have brought them to this moment – to the perfect time and place to become one.
So often in life we yell at God because his answer to our prayers is “no” or “not yet.” We want the love of our lives to walk enter our stage on our cue, when we believe the time is right. While I know that Jack and Elizabeth are fictional characters worked from talented writers’ imaginations, I am a true believer that literature mimics life. Just like Jack and Elizabeth’s story grew and deepened over five seasons, a true love story isn’t an overnight revelation but a slowly developing, ever-evolving relationship that can only be fully realized when the two individuals find their purpose in following their calling, develop the inner-strength it takes to be someone else’s shoulder to cry on, and learn how to prioritize others’ needs ahead of their own.
Elizabeth had to find herself – she had to truly be a “Hope Valley Woman” before she could be what Jack needed her to be. Jack had to “fight the good fight” and learn that sharing his heart is what leads to love conquering all. In order to be committed to anyone, absolutely, we must walk our own paths and watch our own stories unfold. Then we can say, in looking back over the journey, “from chalk dust to eternity, I’m yours.”