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Posts Tagged ‘unconditional love’

As parents we have responsibility to love, nurture, provide, teach and train our children to become responsible, moral, hardworking, creative, authentic adults and contributors to society. Most of us try to do something like that, with varying degrees of competency and success.

But I’ve found that God seems to have an equally important role for our children in our lives. I will try to share a few of the things my kids have taught me. This lesson comes from my #3 child, Joshua

My grandchildren—and their parents before them—always love a carousel.  It’s fun—for them and for me to see their joy—but it just keeps going around, again and again.

I’ve always been a slow learner—in lessons that matter.  I think it has to do with my stubbornness, my lifelong journey toward surrendering my way and choosing God’s way.  So I seem to spend a lot of time on the carousel—learning the same things again and again.

Our son, Joshua, now 30, was God’s sharp instrument to teach me some invaluable truths in the years of his teenage (and longer) wilderness:

God never gives up on me.

So often I was ready to give up—because of many choices he made.  This became clearest to me through homeschooling, which we were doing in hopes that he might actually graduate.  But he really wasn’t interested.

I would give him his assignments, listen to his arguments, and walk out of his room almost every day saying the same thing:  “I give up.  He doesn’t care—why should I?”  And every day God responded with the same words:  “Have I ever given up on you, Judy?” “Never, Lord.” “And I need you to not give up on Josh.”

So I kept going, and he graduated from high school with a B average.  For which he is grateful.

I am weak and prayer is my strength.

Those were hard years, filled with lots of tears and fears.  Nothing we tried seemed to help Josh make better choices for his life.  We were desperate.

So we did what most people do when they are desperate.  We prayed.  I’m sure our prayers had significant impact on Josh—God was very creative.  But I’m also sure that our prayers had even more significant impact on our lives—especially mine.

Prayer became not just frequent conversations with God, telling Him how I was doing and what I needed.  Prayer became my life breath.  It became a constant communion with God, pouring out my heart, listening to what He was saying, surrendering my requests/demands to His will.  Prayer became my response to His invitation, my resting in His welcoming arms.

I am so grateful.

Unconditional love doesn’t require love in return.

One of the joys of parenting young children is all the hugs, kisses and love they usually give.  By the time they are teenagers we can’t always count on that, and we miss it.  Josh, though, had a prior allegiance to the birth mother he spent his first eight years with.  He couldn’t betray her by loving me

I understood that.  I was patient.  My love for this boy God had entrusted to us grew and expanded.  And eventually I yearned to hear him say, “I love you.”  I begged God to open his mouth to say those words.

So clearly, though, God said, “Judy, by definition unconditional love doesn’t require love in return.  If he never says ‘I love you’ to you, I am calling you and enabling you to keep on loving.”  So I kept loving, not perfectly of course, but perseveringly.

It took 13 years before he could say those words.  I am so grateful I waited.

These lessons have been so real to me—over time and with people and in trials. They speak to core issues of my trust in God. Mostly I have remembered them and recognized the truths as still true—and reckoned them as reality—by the power of the Spirit—in my life.

But the past six months have felt like we have gone back 10 years, like I have forgotten those lessons, like I am starting over.  We have gone through some hard things, and some of my same old responses have surfaced.

I have felt like giving up.  And God has said, “I still haven’t given up on you.  Keep believing.”

I have felt my weakness, and once again prayer has been a source of strength.

My loving and giving have felt unappreciated, and Jesus said He understands.

Yes, as parents we teach our children so much.  But I think God uses them to teach us even more.  And if I seem to have gone from Lesson 101 in some areas to 201 and 801…it should be not surprise me that some of the same challenges with our children come around again.

I’m ready to get off the carousel.  Probably the roller coaster is next.

What about you?  What lessons are you still learning?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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By definition, unconditional love doesn’t require love in return.

Of course, I know that.  God loved me first—long before I loved Him, when I was definitely living in my sins.  And even after I responded to that love and accepted his gift of salvation, I haven’t always loved him well—you know, by obeying Him.  But he has never quit loving me.

Parents learn this early. Even before a baby is born, they love her/him.  And the moment they see her, they are head over heels in love.  It’s a good thing.  Because that baby demands everything and gives no love in return for the longest time.  Fortunately they grow up and learn to love.  Unfortunately, when they become teens, sometimes they break our hearts with words like, “Leave me alone! I hate you!!

“You’re not my real mother!”

My son has been God’s gift to me to help me begin to comprehend what it means to love someone unconditionally. He came to our family just before he turned 10, from a very difficult early childhood.  His birth mother couldn’t care for him, and he was hurt and confused.  He couldn’t call me Mom and he couldn’t love me—that would be betraying his “real” mother.

As the years passed, I grew to love him deeply.  But as he grew, he had lots of pain to work through.  He made lots of negative choices.  He was trying to figure out who he was, and loving me was not a priority for him.  And sometimes that was very painful.
I would ask God, “Would it be so hard for him to be able to say ‘I love you’ to me—just once?”  And the Lord responded so clearly: “Unconditional love doesn’t require love in return.”

No Matter What

So I kept loving him.  No matter what.

I will never forget the day he said, “I love you.”  Those words came from a painful situation of his own.  I was so grateful that day and I am grateful that now they come easily off his lips and are proved in his actions day after day.

And I thank God that He used this boy–now man–to teach me about the real meaning of unconditional love.

c2011 Judy Douglass

en español: ¿Es Posible El Amor Incondicional?

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This is another in a series of letters to members of the amazing Prayer for Prodigals community.

Dear Lover of Prodigals,

 

February—the month of love.

 

When you love a prodigal, you know something about love.

 

You know about all the acts of love that you do, hoping to woo your wayward one back into the fold—yours and God’s.

 

You know the sacrifices you make—time, attention stolen from other children, the cost of rehab, the never leaving home in order to protect him or your home, the waiting for the call–from the hospital or the jail, the hours on your knees.

 

You know the battle in your heart between boundaries and grace, between tough love and mercy.  Which?  When?

 

You know the pain of angry words thrown in your face, of her not wanting to be with you and your family, of your love being trampled in the ground.

 

You know the despair of love rejected, the fear of truly losing this treasured one, the ache of loss of hope.

 

You have despaired and given up.  You have persevered and kept going.

 

And probably you have also learned the difficult but powerful truth that we learned from our prodigal:  Unconditional love doesn’t require love in return.

 

God has loved us with an everlasting love, with kind and tender love, with truth and grace, with a rod and with mercy.  And when He calls us to love as He has loved, laying down our lives for these prodigals, He knows we can’t do it.

 

But He promises to do it in us and for us. He sent His Spirit to live in us, fill us up and to do the impossible through us:  To keep loving through it all.

 

May the love of God be poured over and in and through you,

 

Judy

 

If you love a prodigal and would like to join this loving, praying community, write to PrayerforProdigalsatgmaildotcom and request an invitation.

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