Thursday, January 13, 2011

Unconditional Love

Today I worked on my homestudy autobiography questions.  I am almost done with them but it was much slower than it should have been (I couldn't get myself to work on them when our agency was suspended or while my SW was out of town these last three weeks.)  However, I did work on them today and I had to delete Huckleberry, SnapDragon, and Sunflower more times than not to put in their real names.  My SW does not read my blog.  It made me laugh each time and once I had to stare at Sunflower for a full minute while trying to remember what word I was supposed to type.

On a more serious note, the article "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior" is creating quite a buzz in the online adoption and Asian communities.  Whatever Amy Chua claims her book means to say about extreme parenting that denies play dates, requires strait A's, and allows for parents to scream nasty words at their children* the comments section of the online article make it very clear that many children were raised this way and scarred by it.  My favorite Tonggu Mama addresses the balance needed between the extremes of "Eastern" parenting and the extremes of "Western" parenting that coddles children to build self-esteem.  Most of the discussion seems to be focused on how to find the correct balance between correction and praise.  I'll leave that to others; I agree it must be done; I agree it is difficult to do; I agree true accomplishments will build our childrens' self-esteem.  I don't see any need for me to expand on the topic because I don't want to feel completely redundant.

However, I do need to say something on this topic because it weighs so heavily on my heart.  When did we decide that giving our children self-esteem was more valuable than giving them love?  Okay, nobody would say self-esteem was more valuable, but I do believe our actions speak louder than words.  At minimum our culture and some of our school teaching choices give them equal weight.  "Give them the tools to feel good about themselves and they will feel loved."    No.    Help them feel loved and they will feel good about themselves.  As a parent I must learn how to communicate to my child that they are loved and valued for who they are regardless of mistakes or accomplishments.  If my child rests comfortably in my love, then he doesn't need empty praises to build self-esteem, he can accept correction or fail without sinking into depression and feeling unworthy.  The schools say we have a self-esteem crisis facing our nation; I say we have a love problem.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3: "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing."

That said, I would like to share with you my understanding of unconditional love.  I wrote this in January 2005 to share as the devotion at a MOPS meeting 10 months before we started our adoption.  I was tempted to edit it to fit into my blog a little better, but all I changed were the names.  My awe at God's love has not changed.

"First child. Waiting for him or her. For me, that time was wonderful. An exciting time filled with happy anticipation. I would rock in my rocking chair, rubbing my tummy and reading my Bible. I sat at the table putting a butterfly puzzle together for my baby’s room, praying and listening to praise music. My life was neat, orderly; I was in perfect communion with my God and my husband. I knew the baby would change things, life would be harder, life would be less tidy. But I was prepared and eagerly anticipated the change.

I was wrong! Life wasn’t harder, it was impossible! Life wasn’t less tidy, it was a mess! Books cannot prepare you for a child (which is probably why the new Apprentice, street smarts vs. book smarts is a hit!). Daily Quiet times, even weekly quiet times disappeared. The perfect communion with my husband got some sleep-deprived scratches, and please don’t go into our bathroom! Ever! But I wouldn’t exchange my boys for the world, and it all boils down to one reason—Love!

I love my boys with an intensity and unselfishness I didn’t know I was capable of. And because of that, I now know how much God loves me. “How great is the love the father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.” I John 3:1a We are God’s children, and He loves us. He loves us as we love our children, only with perfection!

I have some examples. First, do you remember how horrible it was to change the diaper of someone else’s kid? It had to be the worse part of being a mother, right? But with our own children, we take it in stride. We change sometimes 8-12 diapers a day, because we love our child. We don’t want him to have diaper rash. God cleans up our messy accidents everyday without ever tiring or wavering in His all-consuming love for us!

Have you ever had to deny your child something they wanted because you knew it wouldn’t be good for them? “No, you can’t touch the fireplace. No, don’t go in the pool without Mommy. No, you may not have another piece of candy.” They cry and throw a fit, but you don’t change your mind because you love them. You know with confidence you can’t let them play in the fire for their own good so you endure the fit, no matter that you can’t stand to see them cry. You want to comfort them, hold them, but sometimes they are so mad they won’t let you. But though it hurts, you are understanding, because you love them! 

God is the perfect Father. He never says no too quickly, in error, or out of laziness. He always knows what is best for us; and when we scream and pout because we didn’t get what we wanted, He wants to comfort us and cuddle us. Our pain hurts Him, but He never waivers because He loves us and will endure hurt in order to make sure we have what is best for us.

One day, I watched Huckleberry, then two, play in the backyard. Very patiently and with great care, he gathered sticks around the yard and planted them around the base of one tree. After two hours of hard work, he had 30 dead sticks standing proud and tall. If they had been living flowers it would have been beautiful landscaping. I watched him with my heart overflowing with love! What a cute boy I have, look how hard he’s working, what amazing patience. He wants to make his Daddy happy by fixing up the yard. Next time Oak plants some real flowers, we’ll have to let Huckleberry help. I have the best son!

When I rush around working hard, trying to please God, sometimes I completely miss the boat! I plant dead sticks in shallow, dry dirt. And God looks down on me with love. He doesn’t say “Hey, look at that moron, she just doesn’t get it!” He says, “Look how cute she is! She works so hard. She wants to please me. I love her! How can we help her use that energy more fruitfully next time? What a precious daughter I have!”

We love our children, and because we do, maybe we can finally believe God loves us even in our messes, tantrums, and screw-ups because we love our kids in their messes, tantrums, and screw-ups. I anticipated a lot of changes when I had kids, but I never expected to experience a deeper relationship with God when my quiet times went from consistent times of prayer and careful Bible Study to erratic short Bible readings, dinner blessings with occasional longer prayers, and the always present knowledge that the love I feel for my children is nothing compared to how God loves me. And God loves each of you!

Ephesians 1:3-6 3 How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He's the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. 4 Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. 5 Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) 6 He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

If you haven’t yet accepted God’s invitation to be a part of His family, I can promise you, He is waiting for that day with as much eagerness, love and patient sorrow as you have ever felt for any of your children. He can’t wait to adopt you."

I read the blogs and comments that say to be a good parent love is not enough and nod my head sagely with them, but really what they mean is that namby-pamby feeling of love that depends on the actions and cuteness of our child is not enough.  I think the love that the Bible teaches--the love of action and sacrifice--that love is enough because it includes all those other things we need.

I Corinthians 13: 4-8:  "Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails."  (Read Tonggu Mama's Amplified Adoption Version for more insight.)

* This parenting method isn't just parents struggling to hold their temper in frustrating situations, it is purposely saying mean things as a parenting strategy to motivate and mold their child.  A wise woman told me a few days ago--the whole Bible is a parenting book.  Parent as God parents us.  He disciplines.  He encourages.  He comforts.  He loves.  He never, ever calls us hurtful names like garbage to motivate us.

1 comment:

The Raudenbush Family said...

Parent as God parents -- beautifully put. Makes me think I should do a blog post on that thought itself....totally proving my point about how personally helpful my blog is. :) And, I think you should go ahead with your post--I'd love to read your thoughts on blogging!