Thursday, May 5, 2016

Love is Different

Oh, it was a morning. One of those mornings full of protests and tantrums and oh my goodness the whining. World War 3 almost broke out during bath time. Somehow we survived and as we were miraculously walking out the door to get in the van, you perked up at a sudden memory (funny how fast things can change) and said, “The candy! Mom yesterday you said we could have some candy this morning!” And it’s not what you wanted to hear and not even what I wanted to say, but Honey I don’t think that’s such a good idea right now. “But you said!!!” Yes I did but things have changed.

And as we walked to the van I tried to explain, which is the part of me that I sometimes can’t stop even when I need to. It’s not that I want to punish you, but think about this morning. When we are already struggling with bad attitudes and tempers and tiredness, sugar is the last thing we need to add to the mix. It would only make things worse and harder to control our emotions. I think that waiting is the best thing for you. I’m not trying to punish you. I’m making a decision because I love you.

I am not here to debate the merits of allowing or withholding candy from children. “Let each one be convinced in his own mind,” and in eternity I doubt our convictions on sugar will be the hottest topic of conversation. But in that moment, candy convictions aside, you muttered something significant as you climbed into the van.

“It doesn’t feel like love.”

I get it, honey. You are so right.

Now, you don’t know this but before I was a mom I used to be cool and listen to music other than “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” and “Let it Go.” There was this one song in particular by Caedmon’s Call that went like this… “Love is different than you’d think, it’s never in a song or on a tv screen; and love is harder than a word said at the right time, and everything’s all right…oh love is different than you’d think.”

And it is.

We think love is romance and sunsets and happy endings. And there are those things, but there is also a collision of two self-centered worlds, and the hard work of learning to put someone else ahead of yourself. The daily grind becomes a crucible of self-denial, and you come to realize that love looks a lot more like struggling to become one flesh, learning how to forgive and be forgiven, laboring to extend grace instead of judgment, letting go of expectations. It looks like being fully known, learning not to hide, resting in a covenant, and trusting another person with your heart.

Love is different than you’d think.

We think love is on a Pampers commercial where a beautiful, rested, and clean mother smiles tenderly at her calm, happy, clean baby. And there are certainly those kinds of moments to savor (maybe minus the “clean” part and definitely minus the “rested” part), but much more often there are sleepless nights and crying-baby-induced despair and days without clean clothes or a shower. There are hours of pacing with a baby in your arms and hours of pacing with empty arms when you realize your baby is growing up.  There are soiled sheets during the potty training days and crumbs on the floor and then you realize that love is different than you thought. Love is embracing the person your child is, not who you thought they would be. It is a constant pouring out until you think you can’t go on anymore, but then you realize that yes, you can. It is reading books on the couch, teaching the art of brushing teeth, addressing heart issues instead of just behavior, and realizing that your very heart is walking around and you can’t protect it forever. It is teaching those babies how to think and respond and discern truth, and giving them up to their Creator a thousand times over because you understand more every day that you have no power to change their hearts.

Love is different than you’d think.

And you think that love is when your mom lets you have unrestricted access to candy, or at least a few pieces of candy. And I get that, I so get that. Because I think that love is when my Father gives me the desires of my heart, all of them, and now. But so often, love looks more like a potter molding his clay, smoothing rough edges and bending it into submission and firing up the kiln to make it strong. It looks like a shepherd’s rod and staff which guide, correct, and protect. It looks not like a change of circumstances but a change of heart – joy in the midst of trial, peace in the midst of trouble, hope in the midst of a storm. It does look like a Father giving His children the desires of their heart, but often only after He gently and over time changes what those desires are. And it looks like a holy and righteous King who sees humanity drowning in depravity and death and rebellion, and who trades His riches for ashes and dwells in the midst of the filth so that He can pay for all the debt that our sin has incurred. It looks like a Man dying on a cross with scoffers and gamblers and oblivious bystanders all around. It looks like an empty tomb and a satisfied God and a gift that we don’t have to earn because it’s already been paid for and we couldn’t earn it anyway. 

You have a lot of years to think about this and learn it. I have twenty-six years on you and I still don’t get it. But I’m starting to.

Love is different than you’d think.