Being a parent means that you are always expanding what love means to you. My first lesson occurred when our twins were two years old and one was biting other children. Of course I loved all my children, but my cries to myself that “no child of mine would ever bite another child!” and “Oh, God, I can’t stand this!” changed not a bit of his behavior. But since he was my child, I felt obliged to love him exactly as he was. That took a conscious decision on my part to extend love to him even when I didn’t feel like it, all the while training him not to bite.
How often did we have to take the long view as Hank and raised our three children. Especially with one son, a born technical wiz: we told each other constantly, “if only we can get him to through school, then he’ll be fine.” He is now a delight. Or when our teenagers were acting up or out, we learned not to take it personally or as a reflection on us. The teenage years are a stage in the maturation process; but sometimes teenagers resemble two-year-olds!
Later when my daughter became a born-again Christian at age 16, I was floored. We had raised her in a fairly liberal church with an inclusive set beliefs and she chose a narrower path! It was very hard to talk about for a long time because we had no common language after her conversion. As time went on, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I began to see that loving her meant loving everything about her, including her beliefs. Over a period of eight years the Spirit transformed my attitudes. At first when we attended church with her whenever we visited, I had to translate the services into a language that I could tolerate. Later we found common ground by agreeing that she and I were equally devoted to our beliefs. With the help of the Spirit I was to be able to sit in her churches and take the message straight. Later I really started to appreciate the whole range of churches and God’s need for so many different variations on the themes of His Beneficence and Christ’s life. I am an advocate for the whole church today, regardless of the beliefs, not preferring one more another. Sometimes I daydream, trying to assign one sect or another to a limb or organ, like the Unitarian/Universalists to the brain, etc. While some churches think that they have THE ANSWER, I believe that we need them all.
Interestingly, as the Holy Spirit and I worked this out, I became a less doctrinaire liberal, politically and religiously. I gave up my preoccupation with creeds and have opted for living the Life of the Spirit as best I can. I can only imagine how God can love me, but it helps that He is a loving parent, too. Somehow He has required me to love unconditionally as best I can. I know I am not perfect at it, but I can include so much more in my love than I could before He got a hold on me.
How often does God take the long view with those of us who have turned to Him in love, who need to mature in our faith, and to eventually turn our lives over to Him? Love requires a response, for what is the fun of loving someone without it being returned in some way? I can’t imagine God just being content to pour out his love without response or without some object, like drawing us closer to him. He loves much more completely than I as a parent can, always extending His love no matter how far off the mark I am. How could I not love God when He is so good and loving to me?