Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Monday, September 17, 2007

Unconditional Love

I have been battling with a heart issue with my husband's family for a long time and recent events have caused me to pause and really reflect on how I can use it to help myself be a better mother and a better wife. The term unconditional love is a very hard one to grasp and I have learned that it's also a very hard one to express, for some people. I have always thought that while my family has its own measure of dysfunction, we knew what unconditional love was and we knew how to make the effort to show it and make sure each of our members knew we loved them beyond any hardships and despite any shortcomings or problems. However, I took this model as a rule and I have been given a hard lesson in learning that we are not the rule but the exception. I brought this model into my marriage, hoping to convey to my husband and my own children that no matter what they did or what happened, my love would never be conditional.

1 Corinthians 13:7-8 says of Love, 'It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.' This is not speaking of the type of 'love' we feel, or even the love between friends or childhood couples. It is real love, love like God loves, love like we are called to love. Love is not a feeling but a truth rooted in our souls, nurtured by our selflessness and giving to others.

I have struggled for the past 3 years, trying to understand the interworkings of my husband's family, how they could be on again, off again with their "love"; how they were sure that seeing us and their grandkids only for special occasions and only if we made the effort was showing their love and how other various issues that arose could even be part of the equation for a healthy and close family. It is a difficult task to really live by the rules of the type of Love conveyed in all of chapter 13 in 1 Corinthians. But to constantly be turning a blind eye to your family's cry for this love totally bewilders me.

So, in trying to understand this and trying to move through and beyond the hurt and pain my husband and I have endured over the past few years, the pain he has endured his whole life, and the most recent events that have caused further injury, I have come to the point where all I want to do is heal, move on and use this lesson as yet another building block in the foundation for the type of family I want mine to be. It is through our greatest trials that we learn the most important aspects of life and love, understanding and strength and I am trying to beat this thing into submission enough to get what I need out of it and leave it on the ground where it belongs.

The thing is, because my husband has had the model that he has within his family, it is hard for him to not model that type of "love" within our family. He just doesn't know how to model the real kind of love. His first words when we are arguing are often 'I'm done, we're over.' And it took me a really long time to understand that it really wasn't how he felt, he was just mirroring the type of love his family had always shown him, which really isn't love at all. When things were hard, they walked away. And they were never there for him to begin with as he grew up and faced the world. It has been one of the hardest things for me to do to get past the hurt I feel every time he expresses his desire to just give up, or every time he belittles me as his family has done to him. And it's been hard for me to not want to yell at him when he's dealing with the kids in the same way he was dealt with.

There have been many times when I myself felt like just giving up but because I really love him and our children, I can't really ever give up. I want to teach my children that you never give up on the people you love, that you are always there for them, that you have to be selfless when it comes to your family members and really make an effort to show them that you do love them no matter what. And I want my husband to know this, too. I want him to have all the love I could possibly give him because he has spent his entire life not knowing what love really is, not experiencing the support that love provides, the concreteness of it and the strength in which it carries you through life.

'If I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.' ~ 1 Corinthians 13: 2,3