EARLEY: Human love is never enough
By Al Earley
Betty was twenty-two, living at home, and keeping two jobs while in school. It seemed Mom still treated her like a child. She would ask about homework and ask her to clean her room. Every morning she would wave goodbye from the front porch in her favorite rose gingham apron as she had done for years. Struggling for independence Betty exploded, “Just leave me alone.”
Graduation day finally came. The family was there, many gifts were given, and Mom watched, beaming proudly. Betty felt guilty. As she opened the gifts she wondered about her mother’s gift. Would it be a ring, a watch, or pearl earrings? As she opened the box she found two faded strips of faded rose gingham; Mom’s apron strings (Guidepost Magazine, August 1992).
Aren’t Moms great! (And Dads, too!) They always share a perfect balance of love, affection, discipline, and freedom. They know just the right time to cut the apron strings and let us loose. And those of us who are parents today have that same knack – perfect models of love. Well, maybe not!
Our mothers and fathers are usually our first models of love, and often our most important models for our entire lives. Of course, some parents model love better than others. For some, Mother’s Day can be a bit complicated. We don’t get to choose our mothers. Most of us will find we are either so opposite our Moms that we don’t see things the same, or we can be so much like our Moms we sometimes don’t want to be near her.
Perhaps that is why forgiveness is such an important part of love, because there is no such thing as a perfect parent. We do well to choose models of love who also model forgiveness. But how do we choose our models?
The Bible gives us an important insight into our models: that even at our best, we are a bit flawed. Consider Isaac and Rebecca who had twin sons, Esau and Jacob. They made the all-too-common mistake of choosing favorites. Rebecca helped Jacob cheat Esau out of his inheritance and birthright, but Jacob then had to flee because Esau threatened him with a slow, painful death. Then at mid-life they met again, Esau forgave his brother, and they hug, which gives us a great model of love and forgiveness for brothers and sisters (Genesis 25:19-33).
You have to love the Old Testament for its contact with reality. We know families like this where parents pick favorites. Throughout the whole Old Testament, the great men and women of faith modeled love, but they didn’t quite get it right, because they couldn’t model God’s love. So God did that for us. He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to reveal the power of radical love that forgives 70 times 7 (Mat. 18:22). He said, “Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors, turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile” (Mat.6:38-48). And when he was dying on the cross, he modeled the importance of forgiveness when we share love with others when he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
When we as parents, children, and friends fall short of the love we want to share with those we care about, let us remember to ask for forgiveness from God and our loved ones. It is so hard to forgive one another. We hate giving up control. Remembering the sins of the past gives us so much ammunition whenever we need it to control someone else. We love winning battles, and all the better if we can crush our opponent in the process. In the heat of the battle we rarely notice that the person we are trying to crush is our spouse or child, someone we are supposed to love unconditionally. Yet the Bible shows us so many powerful examples of how forgiveness changes lives. Who do you need to forgive completely today?
And let us seek the guidance from God and strength from our faith in Jesus Christ to redeem our very imperfect love. A purely human love is never enough to get us through the rough places in life. How can God help you love someone in your life unconditionally that you are struggling to love today? If you will answer either of those two questions I know you will have a happy Mother’s Day! (To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles, see www.lagrangepres.org)