March 2015 Posts

The Many Faces of Love: A Child’s Love

A Child's Love

When Judy and I began having children, we were convinced with each one that they were going to be the most loving person in the world. It didn’t take very long with each one to realize, like parents learn about every child, that they were actually quite selfish.

Each child that comes into this world is born completely dependent on others to make living possible, which naturally contributes to their selfish tendencies. It doesn’t take long for them to begin to think the world revolves around them. Looking back on my own childhood, that includes me as well. Parents exist to grant a child’s every wish. Siblings exist for a variety of selfish reasons: to take out their frustration on, to compete with them and win, or to get even with each other for the way they were treated growing up.

Most parents truly love and cherish their children. They sacrificially give to and for their children without the slightest expectation of anything in return. And slowly something can begin to happen in their children.

A parent can go way out of their way to just bring a smile to their child’s face, only to get that smile with an attitude of, “You just did what parents are supposed to do.” No “thank you” or anything of the sort. But if the parents keep showing love, one day they may notice their child handing one of their stuffed animals to a sibling or friend as an act of sacrificial love.

Then at some point a child may actually give their parent a Valentine or a birthday present (that someone else actually paid for, of course) and with a proud face hand it to Mom or Dad. Often they will expect the parent to make big a big deal over their gift, since that selfishness is still lurking beneath the gift giving.

At some later point, they may learn the words, “Thank you” and “I love you.” They may even eventually say those words with some heart behind them, actually meaning them. It seems that by the time children grow into their early teens, they are finally learning a little bit about how much a parent has actually sacrificially loved them, but at this point they are often too shy to acknowledge it out loud. For later teens the shyness may turn into being too “big” to say such words. Some will. Some won’t.

Love is designed to be an acquired way of living, and as children grow and become adults, and start having their own children, some realities start to dawn on them. I can remember one of our adult sons asking me many questions over the phone, including, “Dad, how did you afford those soccer cleats for us each season?” As a parent, he was getting a better picture and clearer perspective that had eluded him in childhood.

Recently, our oldest son drove 11 hours to come and see us, and his grandmother who was in the hospital and then in hospice. I told him how much I appreciated it. I told him how much I loved him and how proud I was of him for the man he had become. He simply said, “Well Nana always loved us so well, always moved with us when we moved. It’s the least I could do.” He didn’t say a bunch of mushy stuff, but his actions were actions of love.

The next weekend, our other son and his whole family came to visit their Nana as well. They loved her and us by just taking the time and putting out the effort to show up. Our daughter also flew out from Little Rock, Arkansas to visit Nana and us. She took a lot of time and spent a lot of money because she loves her grandmother and her parents.

I love each of our children for who they are. I’d give my life for any of them. Love tends to grow where love is shown, and one of the best things in life is seeing our children growing in sacrificial love for their spouses, for their children, for each other, and even for Nana, Judy and me. And I’m extra grateful for their effort in coming to see their Nana one last time before she went to be with Jesus.

The Many Faces of Love: A Couple’s Love

A Couple's Love

When I first saw Judy, something happened in my heart. Her humor and joy in life shone through loud and clear, and spoke to a hole that was in my life – one I didn’t even realize was that big, until I saw that beautiful young woman so many years ago.

Then I actually met her and realized that what I thought was a hole was really a canyon. Every part of me wanted to be with her more and more. Eventually, I realized I not only wanted her in my life but also needed her in my life. And she realized she needed me as well. That was good news to me.

Now we have been married more than 43 years, and we have both learned many things about our love as a couple.

Young couples can undoubtedly love each other with an authentic love. But it is the testing of that love over time that helps it grow even deeper and stronger. Judy and I have had our love tested many times. Sure there are times when the testing pushes us further apart for periods of time, but in the long run it brings us back together with a deeper love than before.

When we lost our son Kyle in a tragic drowning accident in 1979, Judy and I faced the hardest year of our marriage. She and I needed to grieve so differently. Judy needed to process her grief out loud. I needed to be quiet and mentally process the whole experience. My quietness made Judy feel that I didn’t care. Her talking about it at every turn made me want to get away and find a place in solitude to think, ponder and make some of the biggest faith decisions of my life.

After a while, I realized Judy wasn’t trying to hurt me by talking constantly about her feelings. She was just processing her grief. And Judy realized that I wasn’t trying to ignore and run from her as much as I was just trying to process grief my own way. It was during this intense time of grieving that we learned more about each other than we had ever learned. We were so different, but we filled up what was missing in each other as well.

When our daughter developed a rare blood disease a few years later, we were able to handle it together so much better, as a couple who had drastic differences but whose love helped us appreciate and value each other as well.

When Judy’s mom, June, came to live with us for a little more than two years, our love grew once again as we moved into uncharted territory. June has Alzheimer’s. We knew very little about the disease at the time, but we had learned how to process through that hard time together. I saw Judy’s tender love and compassion for her mom, even though her mom could not understand or value her love much at the time. Watching Judy with her mom made my heart grow deeper in love with her.

We spent the last month with my mom lying in the hospital and then hospice as she suffered from congestive heart failure. She was challenged in taking each breath, her Alzheimer’s had progressed severely over the last decade, and we didn’t know what the outcome would be. Judy and I kept tag teaming being at the hospital with her. We hardly even saw each other, and when we did we were talking through end of life issues and alternatives. It wasn’t a very romantic Valentine’s season.

But as I watched Judy tenderly care for a mother that was not her own, my heart grew even closer to her. She did all this because of her love for me, which makes me love her even more. That girl I saw some 45 years ago has given me so much more than I could have ever known.

It saddens me when I see couples facing hard times and giving up, somehow thinking changing partners will solve their problems. That’s not how God designed life to be lived. It is through the hard times that love grows even deeper and stronger than you could possibly imagine. And that is the kind of love He desires for couples.