I am going to paint a picture that I’m almost certain you’ve seen before. Most of you have literally been IN this picture yourself, and will probably relate to what I’m writing about on a deep, personal level. My hope and prayer for those of you reading this and not able to identify with the end of this painting, my personal e-mail is linked in my profile and I want you to use it, and you’ll know why as I place this figurative paintbrush down at the end. That being said, I’m going to take a deep breath, pick up that brush, dip in and begin.
It was a Friday morning. The kids had had their breakfast and were playing in Allen’s bedroom while I was working. The kids usually play really well together- there’s still fights over toys, sharing will always be a contentious topic with pre-schoolers. But by and large, Allen and Ruth play peacefully. So, as I was working in the living room I heard Ruth begin to cry- and knew by the type of cry she had been physically hurt. With an inward (and very possibly, an audible) groan, I removed my computer from my lap and trudged towards Allen’s room- not looking forward to the interaction about to take place.
As I’m walking closer, I hear Allen’s pleading Ruth not to tell mom what he did. I was (somewhat shamefully) whisked back to my childhood, when my sister and I would fight (way more than necessary, of course) and I would often make the same plea. I asked Ruth, still crying but not bleeding or visibly injured, to tell me what happened. “Allen kicked me in the face.” I was stunned. Allen confirmed that was true. It was not an accident. And I was so disappointed. My sweet, caring, sensitive son had consciously hurt his sister.
This was a new parenting moment for me, to feel this deep sense of disappointment. I talked to Allen and he was disciplined and we talked more. He and Ruth were playing together again soon after, but I was still stuck. My son had kicked his sister. My affections for him struggled that day, and I know why. Because I can’t love my son unconditionally.
Allen has a sweet disposition. A little ornery and mischievous, yes, but overall easily likable. With Allen, my love for him had never really been challenged before this day. I had learned some difficult truths with Ruth- as we struggled to bond and attach early on, but Allen had been a cake walk, as far as children four and under go. And now: I was disheartened. After seeing this horrible situation unfold, I was forever affected.
You know how you can know something with your head, but it doesn’t truly affect you until you have a personal experience? That’s what this incident did for me. I knew all along I was incapable of unconditional love in my own strength. I even wrestled with this issue when Ruth first came into our family. But until I struggled with my other child in the same way, I believe I had unconsciously compartmentalized the issue as “adoption-related.” But now, on this particularly difficult Friday, I was trying and miserably failing to love my son in my own flesh.
And as ugly as this painting is becoming, I feel like while you’re reading this you’re thinking, “Oh she was just frustrated with him for an hour or so.” Well, I’d be doing this piece a disservice if I didn’t admit that this was more than an all day struggle: that I dealt with feelings of disgust and contempt for my son because of the choice he made to hurt his sister. This wasn’t a reaction, it was a conscious decision. And I thought less of him because of it and treated him as such.
We are all guilty of relying on our own strengths to get us through life. Many people rely on their own strength their entire life- and never know any differently. But, from what I have read in Scripture, I know with my head and my heart, that there is a MUCH better way.
In the Word, we read a lot about love. In fact, many would categorize the Scriptures in their entirety as a collection of love stories. And love, in all its many forms, is certainly discussed in detail. Song of Songs for the romantic love- the special bond between husband and wife. And even all the flutters that come before! Love among friends and brothers and parents.. No love is left untouched. And the most important love, God’s love for all of humanity, is central to this great collection of love stories. And this very love is truly the only way I can love my kids unconditionally.
Let’s face it- that Friday, face-kicking nightmare will not be the last. I mean, I hope it’s the last time Allen will ever kick someone in the face. But there will be other incidents with that heart-issue. Even I will personally have situations where I do something selfish, hurting someone else out of jealousy or anger or pain. But I’m called to love as I have been loved. I’m called to do the impossible- and because of the Gospel and it’s place in my life, it can be accomplished in Christ Jesus.
Well, now my water is pretty murky. I’ve gotten paint all over myself and the pictures I was working on, in all its imperfection, is done. I’m putting down my figurative paintbrush, because even though I continue to be an imperfect mother, wife, friend and person I’m still capable of supernatural things, like unconditional love. Affections don’t make love, and thankfully my affections for Allen grew back in short time. But because of this lesson, I feel I am able to love Allen and Ruth (and everyone else) better. Deeper. All because of the grace of God and his love for me: an undeserving sinner.
If you struggle to love unconditionally and don’t know Jesus Christ, I’m not writing to guilt anyone into a conversion. I’m not gonna shove religion in your face. I just simply cannot live my life, including sharing about adoption and parenting and anything else and not tell of my failures and his perfect love that literally saves me every moment of every day.
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
My personal e-mail is on this blog. I am thrilled every time I’m contacted, no matter what the topic. Please reach out to me!