When my sister and I were younger, we would play this funny game together. She’d come into my room with crazy hair and a face all askew and her voice altered to something highly unpleasant and say, “Sissy, would you still love me if I looked like this?” and we’d laugh silly, sisterly laughs together. Then she’d go off and do the same thing to our mom. I’m pretty sure she still plays the game with her husband. It’s kind of fun.
I had forgotten about her little game until a few days ago when one of my daughters came to me and did the same thing… she was standing all funky and was making a very silly face and said, “Mama, would you still love me if I looked like this?” And I laughed and said, “Of course!” and gave her a ginormous hug. She ran off, satisfied with my answer.
Do you ever wonder that? When you look at your friends or even your family, do you ever wonder, “Would you still love me if…?” If you knew about my past. If you knew what I said. If I messed up really badly. If I don’t meet your expectations of me. If, if, if.
I do. All the time.
“If” is an interesting word. It is used to talk about the result or effect of something that may happen or be true.
“If” means something can or will happen because of more information or a change in circumstance. “If” is powerful.
“If you only knew…”. How often have I said that, knowing that if someone did indeed know, their opinion would most certainly change. And if their opinion of me is altered for the worse, well, I don’t want to share that “if”. I like being liked.
So when my kids come to me and say, “Would you still love me if…?” What they’re saying is that they want assurance that I WILL ALWAYS LOVE THEM. No matter what. An “if” won’t change that.
This begs the question: How am I showing them that truth? How do they know that I will always love them no matter what?
My heart has broken over my many failures to relay this to my kids. Sure, I say “I love you” all the time and smother them in hugs and kisses, but to be honest, those are also when we’re all happy and not at each other’s throats. Loving in good times is easy. Loving when everyone is screaming and fighting over who sits where or how “she took that doll and I was playing with it!”, well, let’s just say we don’t feel very loving then. I certainly don’t try and scream, “Stop fighting right now! I LOVE YOU!!” to get them to stop.
Maybe I should.
But love, true love isn’t just in the words we say but in how we live. When my older ones were little I would get so frustrated when they were acting up. I’d discipline them as necessary (often putting them in time-out or whatnot so I could go have MY time-out). And after 15 minutes or so (or longer if needed), we’d talk about what happened. Sometimes. Other times I’d just leave them there in their room because I just couldn’t deal with it and I wanted to cry into my pillow for hours. Sometimes I’d just not deal with it. Sometimes I’d yell and yell just to make the point that what they did was wrong because I was wronged and that wasn’t okay with me. I thought “I’m justified in this.” Total drama queen and completely wrong.
TRUE LOVE shows itself when people don’t meet our expectations or hopes for them. TRUE LOVE shows itself by forgiving others even when they don’t ask for it. TRUE LOVE is sacrificial. TRUE LOVE isn’t self-focused, but other-focused.
Jesus demonstrated this kind of love for us in that while we were (and are) broken and filled with sin, unable to return the favor, He died for us. Because He could save us from ourselves, our sin, with His love. What can we do for Him that He can’t do for Himself? Nothing. He’s perfect and we’re not. I have nothing to offer Him and yet HE LOVES ME. He loves you. He is Love… incarnate.
I have been gifted with 5 children to learn what true love is. True, sacrificial love. I had no idea before. Even 12.5 years into this motherhood thing I’m STILL learning about it and am nowhere near close to mastering it. I’ll be learning about true love until my days on earth are up.
Love used to be about me. I thought: “What can others do for me to make me feel loved?” Sure, I like feeling loved as much as the next person and we should enjoy being loved by others, but to be the one who bestows unconditional love on another… that is a phenomenal gift. I am so glad I have this privilege. And not just as a mother, but as a wife, sister, daughter and friend. Even as a stranger.
It’s not too late you know.
It’s not too late to learn to love. It takes work and it takes sacrifice, but if we look to the One who IS Love, we cannot go wrong. He’s a pretty good teacher. And He still loves us… “if”.