Friday, March 27, 2009
How God taught me what Grace means
It wasn't until I became a mother that I truly knew what unconditional love really meant. The simple fact is that my love for my children is not something that can be measured. It is a love that knows no bounds and there is absolutely nothing that they could do that would make me not love them. Have I liked everything they've done or said in their lives? No! Are they perfect? No. But by virtue of being mine ( I don't mean this in a possessive way) it would be impossible for me to not love them and want the absolute best for them.
I mentioned in an earlier post that Emily felt lost to us for several years when she was with her ex husband. That estrangement was the darkest period of my life. Looking back now, I see that God used that time to teach me a very valuable lesson about love, forgiveness, trust, the power of God's love for us, and maybe most importantly, what Grace really means. During that four year period I was all over the place emotionally. I started out being broken hearted and that lasted for a long time. I then moved into anger and was so angry at her husband that it literally felt at times that it would eat me alive. I then went through a period of feeling numb and became very depressed. I felt as invisible to God as a person can feel. There was no comfort to be found anywhere. I couldn't imagine living the rest of my life with this gaping hole in my heart that only Emily could fill. With the way things were between us and with the power that her husband had over her I didn't see how there could ever be a solution. The word "forgiveness" kept showing up in my reading. I knew I should forgive and in fact had to forgive this man who had, in my mind, stolen my daughter from me. This man was abused as a child, he comes from a family riddled with mental illness and knowing this allowed me to be sympathetic towards him to a degree. So I began to try to forgive him for the vile things he had said to us and for causing such heartache in our family. I stumbled and fell A LOT in my efforts here. I just kept praying that God would give me His heart to forgive because my human one felt very inadequate for the job. It wasn't something that happened overnight but over time I could feel the anger lifting from me. One day I just realized that I had forgiven him and that dark energy in my heart towards him was just gone. He became someone that I felt so very sorry for and I can even say that there were moments when I was able to feel some degree of love for him. It wasn't a warm and fuzzy kind of love, but it was a love that I don't think I would have been capable of without my knowledge of how a mother loves. The mother in me was able to recognize the terribly wounded child that was inside of him. If ever there had been a little boy who needed a parents healing love, it was him. So I started with that little glimmer of love and forgiveness and just rested with it. I decided that I could love them from where I was and my love for them and most especially for Emily wasn't contingent upon having that love and acceptance returned. She was my daughter and there was nothing she could do that would put her outside of my love for her. While I still missed the closeness of a day to day relationship with her, that hole in my heart was filled up with the love that "I" felt for her. I just had a knowing in my heart that someday she would be back in our lives and however long that took was just going to be however long that took.
It was at about that time that I realized that is how God must love us!!! I had been angry at God for quite a while because I felt like there were so many rules to follow and so many hoops to jump through to be worthy of God's love and it just felt like an impossible feat. How could anyone live up to the expectations of God?
If I, as a woefully flawed human mother, could love my child so much that even her refusal of that love couldn't diminish it even the tiniest bit, then surely God in His perfectness must love us the same way! I finally understood what Grace was all about. We don't save ourselves. God's Grace is the gift of a loving parent
Thankfully, Emily left her husband and so much healing has happened in our family in the past year. We now have the best relationship we've ever had and I thank God for that every single day. But I know that even if that had not happened I would still love her the same. The child may go away and turn their back on the love that is offered, but the parent loves them anyway. There was no way that she could escape the love I have for her. She didn't have to accept it. It was there anyway. I finally truly understood the story of the Prodigal Son. But more importantly, I finally truly understood the love of God and what Grace was all about.