I am going to wax philosophical today, so forgive me for the inane wanderings...
I have spent the past couple of days contemplating the concept of "love". I was asked to do the children's portion of the service this Sunday but had forgotten and found myself reminded 10 minutes before "showtime" and had to scramble to come up with something appropriate. I quickly looked at the Sunday School material, jotted down a couple of notes, and ended up "winging it". The Sunday School lesson was about God's love for us, and as always I am amazed at how easily children accept and offer up their love. For them, love is not complicated, it is not filled with anxiety about whether others will love us back or not, it is not anything "dirty" nor does it have any other meaning other than pure, simple love. Oh, to be a child again!
Later that evening I met with our Senior High Youth Group where I again decided to follow the theme and have our group discussion about the many sides to love. What a fascinating discussion that was, and how terrifying it can be as the mother of young children to imagine my own so-far-very-innocent children sitting there sharing the thoughts, feelings and emotions associated with more mature experiences. How I wish I could preserve their innocence forever! And how impossible that would be...
Contrasting the two, it was a reminder of how important these years are with our kids, of how difficult it is to infuse them with the morals and values we hope they will carry with them for the remainder of their life, of how much they will struggle with their own beliefs as they turn them inside out trying to find meaning in their life. I would NEVER return to that age, preferring instead to be where I find myself today, confident about certain truths (even if others vehemently disagree), able to see things from many different perspectives and yet still see the morsel of connectedness in even the least obvious places.
One question I asked both groups was "Why is it so hard for grown ups to say 'I love you' to others? Why is it hard to say it to someone other than a romantic interest?". I know that our life experiences play a key role in this, that we can feel freer or more stifled in expressing our love for others based upon how we have been treated by others in the past. If we have been hurt, it becomes more of a challenge to open up and let love in. If others have rejected us, we tend to withhold our love, or at least our open expression of it for fear of once again being emotionally injured. I saw how seriously damaging this can be firsthand with Joshua.
I have had times in my life when I have felt very unloved, I've had surprise moments when others rejected me totally unexpectedly, I have had love whither and die away. I have also been cherished by the man who would become my husband. Daily for the past 9 years I have been at one love stage or another with a new child in my life, a child who started out as a total stranger but whom I promised to care for as my own forever. With our adoptions, love has had to be worked at, regardless of how others try to present it as a fairy tale romance. I have privately spoken with so many other adoptive parents who are terrified to admit that they don't feel any love for this child they now find themselves parenting, and they wonder if that makes them a bad person.
The incredible thing is, at least in our case so far, love wins every time.
Perhaps this daily "Love Workout" I have participated in for so many years has honed my ability to lay it out there, to let others know exactly how I feel about them with no artifice. The truth is, somewhere along the line...I think with Josh...I "got it" that this is not a game we are playing, life and love are real and affect us forever and far more deeply than we often understand. With God's help, I began to quickly see that I had a job bigger than I ever imagined, and that was showing my kids how to love. That meant I had to be as real as I could possibly be, that only being "half authentic" was going to net me "half authentic" kids, and we were already starting behind the 8 ball in the "Love Department".
Fearless love is hard to achieve, it is hard to be "fearless" when something as strong as love holds so much power over us. But when you are starting with an infant who rejects love in its entirety, you know you have no option but to dig in your heels and split yourself wide open so he can see the real you all in the hopes that your honesty will help him see it is OK to open himself up. When you bring home an older child who is world weary and jaded by the sheer numbers of people in and out of his life who never were the ones who stuck around forever, you have to build love slowly and only time can convince them that finally they can let their guard down. I think that may be where we are with Kenny this past week or so, another brick or two has tumbled down from the wall that now is only about a foot high, but still exists.
Friendship is a place where we often say they are "dear" to us, they are our "best" friends, that we "care deeply" about them, but we hesitate to go for the gusto and say "I love you". Whether it is due to thinking those words should only be reserved for use with romantic love interests, or fear of homophobia, or just being unable to say those words in an unfamiliar context, we rarely hear friends proclaim their love for one another.
And what a shame that is.
I have a couple of friends in my life with whom I can share those words along with my innermost thoughts and fears. I have said it in the past to friends and found myself ultimately rejected later on, and yet I would never have taken it back for a moment as what I felt then was real, it was meaningful, and love should always be acknowledged. To have had love and lost it really is far better than to never have loved at all...and this includes friendships just as much as it does romance. I remember a couple of years ago when one of my very closest friends wrote me a card at Christmas and told me how much she loved me, how important I was in her life and even today she never hesitates to tell me. What a gift she has given me, but surely what a gift she has given herself as well! Freedom to express those thoughts gives our souls a lift, it tears those bricks down and creates ever closer bonds.
And what about those times when we withhold the magic words? What about the unspoken "I love you's" that never reach the light of day? How much have we lost by not revealing our hearts? How much deeper could a relationship be with that kind of honesty, or what relationships never gain solid footing because of our inability to say what we feel for fear of rejection...so we trade safety for intimacy, and we are the losers for it.
The world's view of love today is so skewed. "Love" today really means "sex". It takes a ton of work to help our children see love as the many layered verb and noun that it is...we can love something or we can be "in love". We can take the more worldly perspective of it which is oh-so-narrow or we can take it in a more spiritual context which is far broader and rewarding. What I want more than anything in the world is for the boys to see love for all that it is, but more importantly to be able to express it with abandon!
And as I contemplate all of this "love talk", I sit here in the silent evening worrying about the love of two more children, children who have seen what love is not, but perhaps don't understand what love is. I often have moments of insecurity as I worry that I will not be lovable enough to them, that they will find me someone who is impossible to love. I worry that the damage already done to their souls will be undoable, that we as a family will be unable to reach them and I worry about what that will do to our family dynamics. It is in these quieter moments when one admits what might happen, when one worries about what they have heard has happened before to others, when one is assailed by doubts and finds themselves lacking confidence. This is not a snugly, cute little baby we are eventually bringing home. This will be real live people...little people, but people with a history nonetheless. They bring baggage, as do we, and it is difficult not to let that overwhelm you at moments. And despite the messages brought to us by Hallmark, love really doesn't conquer all.
But I have to believe in Love. It is the one constant in my life, it is enduring, it changes hearts and lives. If God is Love, then I am surrounded by it daily, and most likely so are you. That is His one major tool for reaching us, it is the biggest, baddest Makita Power Drill in His toolbox and it drills right into our hearts when we rip off the protective armour.
Love, we can live without it, I suppose, but who would ever want to?