Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Last Banana

I grew up in what was at the time quietly called "a broken home".  My parents separated two days before I turned 9 and were divorced within a year.  It was a difficult time of my life.  Through no fault of my own or anything I had done I was forced to give up everything I had ever known and depended on.  My entire world was tilted upside down in a single decision I was not given permission to submit my opinion on.

In the days between Point A and Point B I remember being angry.  I remember endless disappointments as my world was torn to tatters by the aftermath of a choice I did not make.

My mother, always wise, was sitting with me one night at her office as I cried my eyes out because my father had forgotten to pick me up for visitation....again.  I remember looking in her eyes and telling her, "I hate him.  I'm sorry Mom, but I HATE HIM."

I don't know where she found the strength after all that had happened but she stopped me in my tracks and said, "No.  No, honey, you don't hate him.  You can hate what he is doing and you can hate the choices he makes and you do not have to like him right now, but you still have to love him.  He is your father and you have to love him, even though you may not like him."

I gave her that sideways glance young girls are prone to when they don't really believe you but have been left with no choice in the matter.  Somewhat along the lines of Natalie Woods in Miracle on 34th Street driving home from the Christmas party on the new route.

The immense joy experienced by her seeing the home never came, but that was definitely the look on my face.

Mom was right, I didn't have to like him, but I did have to love him.  Only by her resolve my father and I now have a good relationship because she didn't allow me to let hate fester.  It would be 10 years before I had the courage to tell him he'd hurt me by his choices and to this day I still can't tell him the truth depths of the pain caused by negligence.  I offer that pain up as a sacrifice and as an act of reparation for divorce when it comes.

Love is not always pretty.  Love hurts as much as it heals.  Love creates pain as often as it creates joy.  Love is bittersweet and two sided.  Love, true love, is when you are willing to give of yourself for the sake of others.  Those "little moments" when you want to be selfish but you suck it up and do it anyway.

Love is saying yes when you want to say no.  It is giving of self.  Love is having the courage to face off against all odds and say "Here I stand" - even when you don't want to be there.  Love is running to the bathroom to cry so you don't hurt someone's feelings by showing your tears.  Love is showing your tears when they need to be seen the most despite everything in you screaming not to cry.. 

Love is saying a very public goodbye to someone you love to the depths of your soul in the middle of an airport knowing you may never see them again.  Love is letting that person go and do the work of God wherever He chooses to send him, even if it is to a battlefield in the middle of a war.  Love is hugging the child you have with that man so close every day because he is the unbreakable link between the two of you. 

Love is standing in a hospital ward at the door of the ICU seeing him again for the first time on crutches and covered in bandages and knowing that no matter how hard you have to fight, no matter what this new world will bring, you will endure in that love every day for the rest of your life.  Love is watching him grimace through physical therapy and fight his way back to health and cheering him on despite your own exhaustion and fear.  Love is seeing his dreams realized and then be taken away because people don't understand.  Twice.

And even after that, love is still picking it up, day after day, and fighting for him and you and your children.  Love is knowing that God will help you find a way.  Love is helping him find his dream once more, one that you pray will not be stolen again while still putting your own dreams aside because sometimes there is only room for one set of dreams at a time.  Love is knowing "God's got this" and relying on that faith each and every day, no matter how scary it may get.

There is more than one way to offer up sacrificial love.  It doesn't have to be this grand image. Love is falling asleep in exhaustion after a parents vs. kids talk that lasted until 2 AM trying to teach them right from wrong and why it is right.  Love is staying up another hour while banging your head against the wall that the conversation even needed to happen....again. Love is the toddler running through the house chanting "BACON!" because he knows it's Dad's favorite.  Love is Dad putting aside his work to let the toddler and/or his brother "help". Love is an older brother giving his toddler sibling the last banana.

Love is so much more than we think.  We should see it in every action, every movement.  Love of Christ and His Sacrifice at Calvary but also love of each other, even His children who we do not know. 

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