The Conditions of Unconditional Love
As a Christian, my main aim is to pursue, and be more like, Jesus. That’s it in the simplest form. Being an aim, sometimes we miss the mark and gosh, I have seen this within me more since Taylor was born. Recently I saw myself totally not living up to this call. Let’s start with a story about Sunday…
This past week Lee had taken a long weekend off to be with Taylor and me. We had some things planned but as most parents with babies will know, don’t really put plans in pen. The one thing I did solidify was a “perfect Sunday out in Simonstown” and I was not prepared for the emotional mountain ahead of me. Lee and I had both decided (against my better judgement and research) that we would wake up at 6.30 or so when Taylor was up for the day and get ready and head out straight away so that her first nap was in the car headed to the Southern Suburbs. Little did we know that Taylor would only nap for 20 of those 40 mins meaning she was already set up for a bad day! When we arrived I tried to feed her before we had breakfast at my brother’s and that is where it went bonkers. She just cried! Didn’t want food. Didn’t want ANYTHING! I could already feel the tension in my back curling up and I felt sick at the thought of what this day would be like if we’re already in full blown meltdown mode. We eventually got her down for a nap and waited it out before leaving the house for Simonstown. Half way in the car, she did it again. Bottom lip out, tears on and another hard one for me to process. I already wanted to click my heels and be home but I knew we were going to have to ride this one out. She missed naps, didn’t eat well and was generally not my happy baby. I had some weird idea that this would be fun – she would sleep in the carrier, eat while we did at the table and giggle at the friends around her. What was I thinking? Well the rest of the day went OK although it was all blurry for me as I was living holding my breath the whole time. I am not even joking.
Then heading back to my brother’s place that afternoon before we left for home, she had another moment of crazy crying in the car only to fall asleep in dad’s arms. We then transferred her to our car and off to home we went which is when I realised I am very flawed and in need of Jesus.
As we drove home I chose to sit in the front so that I didn’t have to engage with Taylor – rotten but let’s be real. She was fine in our car headed home but she did cough a couple of times (she’s got a lot of drool right now so spit builds in her throat often) and I would normally check her profusely but I just didn’t have it in me. I knew she was fine and that was it. Bitterness. We got home, tried to get her down for a nap and I was shattered. I didn’t want to do anything so I changed and literally went to lie in bed hoping for some rest. Selfishness. I heard Lee trying his best but she was not sleeping and then he just started to play with her. She needed a nappy change and I went to help Lee out. I just remember her sitting on her changing table smiling whenever she caught a glimpse of me and I couldn’t smile back. I helped and walked out of the room. Unkind. We did the rest of the routine as night time, doing her bath time and I tried to help here and there while Lee did most of it. But I remember then, in that moment, I saw Jesus. I didn’t choose to be Him but I saw how I could have. That night I was the worst wife and mom – just angry and so upset for what felt like a wasted day. No hope.
A few nights later when Lee and I were praying before bed, I prayed what God had spoken and revealed to me in that moment of washing Taylor. I felt myself questioning my love – does it have conditions, does it have limits, do I love well? In John 13, there is this stunning moment of love in motion as Jesus chooses to wash his disciples feet. No, I didn’t write that wrong. He washed their feet. Perfection washed the imperfect. Clean washed the unclean. God washed man. In that moment in John 13, Jesus calls it “showing them the full measure of His love for them”. He was about to die on the cross and this moment was Him showing the full measure of His love. Whoa. While I was bathing Taylor, I did not maybe need a ground-breaking moment of dying to my selfishness and frustration. I just needed to show her that I will still wash her feet. Even when there are days she does things I can’t handle, when she pushes the limits on my seemingly limitless love, when she doesn’t even know I am upset… will I still wash her feet and reveal the full measure of my love for her? Will I be more like Jesus?
I’ve read this passage multiple times in the past few months and what stands out is that Jesus also says that “If you do not allow me to wash your feet, you will not be able to share life with me.” I think there may be more to this but what I would like to believe is that life is the messy, dirty, real part and by letting someone get close to that part of us and by getting close to that part of others, we share in it. I didn’t want to be near Taylor that afternoon. I was so tired, so angry and so confused as to why I couldn’t get the good day I had envisioned. But then came bath time and I chose to get in there and get close to her. To wash her and share that space with her. I guess you could call that unconditional love. I guess my love has limits but if I am willing, it will be shared in full measure and the limits broken open. I guess sometimes I choose to be more like Jesus even when it isn’t easy. And when I realised all of this, I broke and learnt that the condition of unconditional love is just as it’s written in 1 Corinthians 13.
“Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honour. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (The Passion Translation)
This is what Jesus looks like – because unconditional love looks like something. It looks like Jesus washing His disciples feet even through betrayal and the mess of life. So will my love be large? Will I give up on doing things for a while until Taylor is older and ‘easier’? Will I be consistently kind to her? Will I be a safe place of shelter? Will I be love without conditions but yet conditioned to be more like Jesus? I challenge you too, choose love in its full measure. Even when it feels like you’ve reached the border, there’s always more in you.
*Photo by Tim Gerges (friend and photographer)