Let me ask you something...
Do you know what it means to love someone unconditionally?
Really, truly, no-matter-what, LOVE them? Even if they hurt your feelings, let you down or make you angry?
Probably you said "yes." Most of us would say that we love our spouse, our parents, our siblings, maybe our boyfriend or girlfriend and certainly our children unconditionally. At least we try not to put any limits on our love for those who are most important to us.
Let me ask you something else...
Do you know what it means to be loved unconditionally?
Who loves you...no matter how you treat them? Whether or not you disappoint them? If you make them mad or upset them or scare them or forget them for a while?
How would I answer that question myself?
Well...if I'm perfectly honest...I feel like I love my children unconditionally. And my husband. Definitely him.Yeah, I love those five people. No matter what. Hmmm...and my mom. Of course, she's included. My sister. Yep, her too.
So, all of those people. Seven total.
And I'd say they love me back the same way. Maybe. Or not.
Truthfully, if I sit here and mull it over in my head long enough, I'm not sure I love any of those seven people regardless of what they say or do to me.
Because those are the seven people in this world who could do the most damage to me. I love them so much that when they hurt my feelings, they really crush me. When they let me down, I'm so disappointed. And anger? They have the power to infuriate me to no end. It doesn't happen often, but when it does...yikes. And I, in turn, have the ability to do the same to them.
Isn't it odd how we're quickest to lash out at the ones we know will forgive us?
When I consider unconditional love, my children immediately spring to mind. Yes, I love my husband more than life itself. I love him so much that if I try to think of a time without him here...I can't even breathe. I can't contemplate a moment on earth without that man.
But my children? My children. The four of them grabbed onto my heart when they entered this world. Sometimes, they almost squeeze the life right out of it, but mostly they hold on to it just tightly enough. Oh, how I love them no matter what!
I love them when they don't listen to me. I love them when they disobey. I loved my red-headed two year old when he screamed his head off and kicked his feet and went berserk because he didn't get his way. I loved my six year old when she packed her princess bag and marched her wild curly blond head down the road because she hated me and didn't want me to be her mommy anymore.
I love my daughter when she acts like a teenager and tries my patience. I love my twins when they're frustrated and roll their eyes and stomp off. Ok, I get the urge to roll their little green eyeballs right back where they belong...but still...I love them.
I love my kids when they pout. When they eat the last piece of cake. When they take the last dollar out of my purse. When they wake me up at night and puke in my bed. When they drag their feet and complain. When they interrupt me every thirteen and a half seconds. When they use every last drop of hot water. When they make bad grades. When they would rather spend time with their girlfriend than me. Ugh! It doesn't matter...they're mine. I love them anyway.
But those are the little things in life. It really doesn't take much to love your own child through the difficult years, because while the eye-rolling and mumbling is annoying, it's just a part of growing up.
What about the big things? What about when your child does something that knocks the wind right out of your sails? What happens when the child is grown...and you thought you'd done a fabulous job...and you felt confident that you could check off every single column on your parenting checklist...chalk that one up as "Raised Right." But...WHAM! You're blindsided. Out of nowhere, the child you poured your life into does something you warned against over and over. That child does something that causes life-long consequences not just for him but for someone else. And now...you're angry and upset and discouraged. And worried. And confused.
Well, now I know. I know that I love my child anyway. In fact, the anger I felt? It wasn't even directed at the guilty party. I think that's what startled me the most. My resentment...my disappointment...my fury?
It was aimed right at God.
That's right. I reached out to my baby with comforting arms. I sat with him, through confession and tears, talking and working things out until four in the morning. I promised things would be better. Even though there was nothing I could change, nothing I could do, I stayed there beside him and loved him unconditionally.
And turned my rage on the One who loves me unconditionally. How could He let me down? How could He allow this to happen? Why didn't God step in somewhere along the way and intervene? We did everything we were supposed to do. We took our kids to church. We prayed with them all the time. I answered their endless questions, played Christian music in the car all the time, taught them to love God with all their hearts, and raised them to serve Him! My children go on mission trips! They witness to others. They're compassionate and kind and caring! This should have happened to some other kid! And some other mom! Haven't I been faithful through enough stumbling blocks in life, God?
Go pick on someone else, God. Please.
I never dreamed that I would react that way. I often wondered how people could fall into the "Mad at God" syndrome at the first sign of serious trouble. I always turned to God in a crisis...He's the one who held me together. Turn it all over to Him and it'll be fine. It worked for 39 years. Through some pretty tough circumstances and when I didn't believe it ever would be alright again...He held me through the worst of it, and I couldn't fathom taking my hurt out on my God.
Until I did. Without even realizing it at first. In fact, it's taken me about two months to face facts...
I lashed out at the One who loves me most.
Because I know He's the One who forgives me the quickest. Without holding a grudge. Without throwing it back in my face later. He can take it. He will let it go.
And loves me anyway.
And the hurt? The anger and resentment?
Well, I've I turned it over to Him now. He understands. He will help me through.
Some lessons in life have to be learned the hard way. My child had to experience the consequences of his actions. He needed to know that disobedience to God has a real and lasting effect on more than just his own life. He also needed to know that God has his hand in every aspect of our lives and can turn tragedy into beauty. It will be ok. I hope he's learned that.
And I needed to learn that we all have our breaking points. We can all be pushed beyond the limits of our faith. Even me. But our God will still be there. He will forgive. He loves us in spite of us. That's why He made a way for us to reach Him no matter what we've said or done.
That's what unconditional love is all about. This says it better than I ever could.