A couple of days ago, I wrote a post called A Father’s Love. In that post, I mentioned a supposition that maybe we hate, or dislike, or judge if you will, people because they are not our children.
I have been thinking about that a little more. It seems to me to be a very hard thing to look at other people as my daughter, or my son. Am I prejudiced? I don’t know. But it also seems to be a very hard thing for me to look at other people as my brother or sister, too. I know maNy people who can’t stand their siblings. That is not the case for me, I love them all deeply.
I do know, however, that if I could come to a place where I could see other people as being on an equal standing with my daughter, I would love them easily. But I don’t seem to think that seeing them as being on equal standing with my brothers and sisters will mean they are easy to love. I don’t know why that is.
I must admit that there has never been a greater love for me than the love I have for my daughter. The love I felt for my former wife was not as great (maybe I’ll be blasted for even comparing), nor is the love I feel for my parents or my siblings, or even my best friend. That doesn’t mean I don’t love them greatly, because I do, but nothing even remotely compares to the way I feel about my child.
In a marriage, you may love your spouse one day, and hate them the next, and believe me, that feeling of hate sometimes seems very real, and very opposite of how you felt about your spouse just hours ago. One moment you may feel a kindred kind of love, and the next, your spouse is doing something that seems to drive you nuts. The one thing I see clearly in all marriages is that “love” is not always what you feel. It seems to come and go, even though there is the deeper underlying love that can and often does last a lifetime. That is the love that keeps marriages together forever.
But there is a difference between how you love your child, and how you love your spouse. One lady told me this last week that there was nothing any one of her children could do that would ever drive her away, but if her husband ever did such and such, she’d be gone. That seems to be a common theme in marriages today. I wonder if it hasn’t always been that way.
We just seem to feel a love for our children that is deeper, surer, and more “eternal” than any other kind of love. Maybe this, too, is a part of the image of God?
Seriously, what would it take for your child to be separated from your love? Probably death? Anything else?
I have known parents in these last years who’s children have stolen from them, lied repeatedly, done drugs, sold drugs, been sent away to boot camps for youth, robbed stores, raped women and assaulted police officers. To date, none of these parents has ever abandoned these “wayward” children, nor has any thought to do so ever entered their minds. Just how long would it take for you to leave your spouse if they did all of the things I just listed above, without any sign of changing?
I know we all want to think our marriage is forever, but I have seen a very common theme amongst adults; it is that there is ALWAYS a limit to what we will take from a spouse. Some take years of abuse, some hide crimes committed, but sooner or later, they want to leave. That becomes the life of the marriage, which although it is a marriage in name, is no longer a marriage in love.
You can’t separate yourself from your child like that, if you already love your child. To even think of such a thing brings feelings of anxiety deep within your stomach, and sets you off thinking about how you would make your child feel if you left them.
That’s it, that’s the difference. We love our child as if they are us. We often love no one else in this way. We can put ourselves in their shoes, we can think their thoughts and feel their feelings, and it doesn’t take much effort to do so.
Maybe that kind of love is obsessive, but it’s the kind of love God feels for us, each one of us.
Maybe it’s hard to look at my neighbor and see him or her like I see my child. But there are times when I see the child in them, and then it isn’t very hard to love them at all.
The best place I have learned to see people as children is in a retirement home. It takes a great stretch of the mind to see these elders as the children they once were, and I can’t do it immediately just by looking at them. First I begin to see the elder before me as the fifty-something man who is several years away from retirement. Then, he becomes thirty-something, strong, sure, and vibrant. As time passes, I begin to see him as a young man, eighteen or nineteen at most, full of life, full of energy, and seemingly without fear. From there it progresses to childhood, and I can see him as a toddler. It’s really all right there, in his face, in his eyes, in the way he nods his head as he listens, just the same way he has done it for eighty years. Seriously, if you look at some of the communication habits of the elders, you might begin to see things they have done since their very early youth, things from their childhood.
That is how I begin to see people as children. It doesn’t happen automatically, but it sure does help me love them, or at the least, feel fondness for them.
Maybe tomorrow you can try. Maybe tomorrow, you can ask yourself, what was this lady like as a little girl? What was her giggle like?
Maybe tomorrow you might see someone in a way you have never seen them before. And if you do, will you ask yourself this question? Will you ask yourself, “If all of them were children, could I love them then?”
They all were. They all are.