Last night we attended a Lenten discussion series at our church about true love. The room was filled with young and old married couples, divorced folks, singles, the elderly, our youth group, and little Cora Mae. Father Dwight and Mary led the enjoyable discussion and got me thinking about true love in the sense of parenting. Here are a few highlights.
First, Father Dwight drew from M. Scott Peck’s book The Road Less Travelled. Peck defines love as "The will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth". Not as exciting as something like, “True love is an eternity of butterflies in your stomach, love notes in your mailbox, and the whisperings of sweet nothings in your ear every night as you drift into a love drunk slumber of dreams filled with slow dances in a beautiful, pristine pasture”. Peck goes on to say simply that “love is as love does”; so simple yet profound. The statements are applicable to many types of relationships like family, close friendships, and communities.
So, what do all these semantics add up to? Love is work! Relationships are work! A participating partner must actively choose to be in the relationship, consciously engaged and ready to work. It isn’t about winning or getting what you want, rather a conscious effort to grow and accept. Let’s face it. We can’t make people who we want them to be, but we can love them for who they are. Even if sometimes who they are doesn’t always set our stomachs aflutter with goo goo ga ga love tremors.
So what does entering into a loving relationship entail? First and foremost, it requires risk. So what is at stake? Your heart. You WILL be heartbroken and disappointed. It is almost a guarantee. But is it worth the risk? YES! Also, it requires trust. Do you earn your partner’s trust, or is it a gift from them? Once it is broken, can it ever be regained? Having survived my teenage years I learned this one the hard way. Trust is a delicate issue. Did I earn it from my parents? Or was it a gift from them? Can you ever fully trust again after a breach? Probably not really, but you can give the gift of trust again knowing that you are in a loving relationship and that there is risk involved.
So, how does all of this tie into parenting? Even though our child is only 7 ½ months old, we realize that our love for her means that there is a lot of work in store for us. We can hope that our influence will help shape her into a special person that we are proud of, but ultimately realize that we can only really love her for who she becomes.
Then, there is the risk thing. Sometimes when I hold her, my heart beaks into a million pieces as I see flashes of the future. She will grow up. She will leave us. We will be heartbroken (probably long before she leaves us). Heartbreak in parenting is certain. The risk is real, but I already know it is so worth it. Both the heartbreak and the work, for the ultimate true love that will be revealed.
Now, if only someone could explain that to her! Sigh.