Love Came Softly – Life Lessons from “When Calls the Heart”

“Sometimes, love comes softly….”

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I remember falling in love with Jack Thornton and Elizabeth Thatcher. It was a love that crept up on me, drawing me in episode after episode until I had watched the first two seasons in under a week. I stayed up until all hours of the night because I just had to see what happened next. Would the naive, young school-teacher remain in Hope Valley to see what the future held with the “very handsome, very annoying, mountie”? Would that same mountie choose to chase “thieves and whiskey-runners” over keeping Mr. Thatcher’s precious little girl from “stubbing her toe in a place she had no business coming to?” Mostly, I remember the emotions of falling in love with characters who were brave, flawed, funny, and oh-so-frustratingly-blind to the love that awaited them both.

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What was it that made Jack and Elizabeth’s love story one for the ages, one that seemed borne out of the dreams of every girl who is in love with love? In many ways, Jack embodied the ideal hero – the strong, stoic, shy, and gallant prince who literally rides in on his horse to save the day. Jack unflinchingly confronted bandits and robbers to rescue Elizabeth. He built her a schoolhouse so she would have a proper place for following her calling. He watched Haley’s comet with her, saved her from a mine collapse, and endured tense conversations with Mr. Thatcher in an effort to win his approval.

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Yet, Jack didn’t need to be the hero. He didn’t flaunt some false bravado in front of the lady he so hoped to impress. He stayed true to his own calling, and he encouraged Elizabeth in hers. He saw deeper into her soul than anyone she knew. He understood her like no other. From the sweet walks together on his property to love notes on chalkboards, he knew that her presence in his life was a treasure, and he did everything in his power to show her that they would be a team, meeting the world and its triumphs and heartbreak head on. Just as Elizabeth “always knew they were meant to have a life together,” so did Jack. We loved him for it. We loved him for the romance and the realism, for the protection he gave Elizabeth and for the ways he also set her free to be her own person, to allow her to grow into her own purpose. He was initially her enemy – another challenge in a long list of challenges to face in that rough frontier town. He became her soulmate.

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And so we all shed tears when the love of Elizabeth’s life died as he lived, a hero who gave his life for those he served. I cried, and I cried, and I cried. Not in many years have I been so emotionally invested in a television show, so I surprised even myself with tears that just kept coming. After all, this is a fictional show about fictional characters. Why did I have to swallow past a lump in my throat? Why did my voice shake each time I tried to voice my emotions to my husband and my two little boys? Why do my eyes tear up even as I write these words?

Real life is hard. As Elizabeth so wisely shared with Gabe back in the opening episode of season 1, ““Sometimes people die without goodbyes or without I love yous.” The reality that my own real-life Jack Thornton, the love of my life, could just as easily perish is embodied in Jack’s storyline. While I fell in love with Jack and Elizabeth, it wasn’t because of any one moment. It was 5 years of moments strung together in a history of loving someone unconditionally. That’s what I have – someone who loves me for who I am. Someone who encourages me and sets me free to be who God intends for me to be. So, with Elizabeth’s grief I subconsciously placed myself in her position, broken-hearted, bereft, and cheated of the remaining years with my soulmate.

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We are lucky, Hearties. We got the goodbye and the “I Love you” in the form of a beautiful love-letter from Jack to Elizabeth. Many people on this earth do not get that moment, that last few words, or that last look of love. So I must remember that I have my own Jack Thornton, one I pray for every night as we head off to bed. One who is building his own legacy for his own children and community. May I be the Elizabeth he needs to accomplish that task and may I never take for granted my own love story unfolding before my eyes.

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