In experiencing tragedy and drama, we see family, however you define it. We discover who our family is.
I am incredibly blessed to belong to an ridiculously awesome family. Oh, sure, we have our issues. We most definitely are not perfect. But there is love. There is so much love.
Real love. Sacrificial love. Showing up love. Being there love. True love. Pure love.
A type of love that we don't often see nowadays.
This became ever more evident as my nephew began his struggle. I cried to my sister one night, worried that he never realized how very much I loved him.
She laughed at me.
If there is one thing these kids know, it's that our family loves them unconditionally, she said. She reminded me of their rough childhood. She reminded me that you can see it in their faces when they come to visit. You can see it in teenagers who for their birthday ask simply for grandparents & aunts to take them out for a visit. You see it in how they try to come in for Christmas every year.
I remember seeing it in my nephew's face when I introduced my daughter, his cousin to him.
You see, these kids - my sister's stepchildren - never knew real love until they met our family. They knew a kind of "love" that asked things of them, even as children. They only knew relatives to want something from them. They only knew a conditional love. They only knew life in a "I'll show you love if you make me happy" sort of way.
Even though I knew of their circumstances, of their lives before us, I never thought of it in relation to how we as individuals come to define such broader topics as "love".
We were the first people to accept them exactly as they were, to not expect anything of them at all. Despite having known a birth mother, aunts, uncles, and even grandparents before meeting us, they had never before had anyone give to them, without expecting anything in return. We were the first people in their lives to let them just be.
Since that conversation with my sister, I've been paying attention to my relationships with others, to others' relationships with their family.
I guess I never realized how rare this is.
Or maybe I just assumed that everyone had this kind of love from their family. But they don't.
My mother exemplifies this unconditional, sacrificial love. Not just towards her children, but towards everyone.
I can only hope that I will someday live up to her example.
As I'm wrapping up this post on love, my mind keeps wandering to the love God speaks of, how he loves us, and how he instructs us to love one another.
Perhaps that's why my mother loves the way she does. Maybe she doesn't even realize it, but having spent her entire life studying Scripture, perhaps she has come to a place where she lives it without trying, where it exudes from her as a part of her.
I'm reminded of our Father's love towards us:
"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." -- Romans 5:8
Talk about unconditional love! He didn't wait until we became good enough to sacrifice Himself. No, he died for us knowing full well the sinners we were! Amazing love!
And it doesn't end there:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." -- John 3:16
Have you ever really thought about that verse? Whoever believes in Christ as the Savior shall have everlasting life! That's it. He requires nothing more of us in order to accept the greatest gift anyone could ever give. The only thing we need to do to receive this gift... is to accept it. Much like my nieces & nephew never had to do anything for me to take them out, or give them a gift, or buy them a trinket - they just had to accept it.
I know some of you are saying 'wait, what about all those commandments? all those rules?' - yeah, they're still there. Similar to the instruction of my parents, they are there to help us become better people, and in trying to follow them, we open ourselves to even more blessings than we already have. But do we need to do them to enter the Kingdom of Heaven? Nope. All we need to do is believe.
As for how God instructs us to love one another:
"For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another." -- Galations 5:13
That's it, isn't it? We have been called to unconditionally love one another. We do not use our new found freedom in God to serve ourselves, but to serve one another.
I'm not there yet. I'll never be perfect. But I can try. I can re-evaluate my life, and I can re-adjust how I see others, determine how I can best serve them in love.
Happy Mother's Day everyone. Now go enjoy some momma-love!