Everyday, over and over, I tell N (my 5 month old).
"I just love you."
"I'm so proud of you."
I find myself asking, "Why? Why am I proud of him? All he does is poop and eat and smile?"
It's not like any of those things require courage or intellect.
But I can't deny my love and pride in my son.
I love him because he's my son. He never has to do anything more.
I'm proud of him simply because he exists in this world.
To be honest, this is something I've been trying to wrap my head around ever since we left New Jersey. I hadn't ever thought you could JUST love someone. I thought there had to be a reason. I have plenty of reasons for loving J, my parents, my friends.
They're easy to love because I have lots of reasons.
My brother, Ph, started talking to me about unconditional love and his journey to choose to love people unconditionally. He said he told one of his friends that no matter what horrible things that friend did, he would always love him. He asked his friend if he could believe that and his friend said he thought Ph was crazy. Then he said some things to others about their conversation that offended my brother. I was trying to imagine still loving someone who had offended me publicly.
I could feel the difficulty physically.
My chest constricts when I think of loving someone who's hurt me.
Around this same time I started trying to comprehend that God could love me unconditionally. That he could love me if I didn't go to church, or if I didn't pray or read my Bible. I could believe that God could love the thief on the cross, but not me. Not if I wasn't attending a small group or paying my tithe. In my head, God couldn't possibly love me then.
Honestly, I've been really good at being a Christian for a long time. God has had plenty of reasons to love me, (like I have reasons to love my friends and family) but I can honestly say that 25 years of my life I spent trying to do one more good thing and maybe then I would believe God loved me. But there was always one more good thing. Even if it was just a progression of life. If I graduate high school with an A, if I get into the right college, if I make the right friends at school, if I get the right degree, if I graduate with an A, if I get the right job, if I meet the right guy and don't have sex before marriage, if I'm a good wife, if I can have kids, if I can stay home when I have kids, if I'm a good mom.
I honestly wondered if the list will ever end. And most of those things I didn't do good enough.
So after New Jersey, I gave up. I basically said, "Screw this life. I've done enough." I was exhausted, depressed, and isolated.
God will either never love me, or he's going to have to take me like this.
I stopped going to church. I started fighting with religious people who told me I had to do it their way. I HAD done it their way. I was depressed and exhausted their way and I hadn't gotten the promised love out of it. Only a long to do list that grew longer every year. I also stopped reading my Bible (a HUGE burden I carried most of my life--"don't read your bible, forget to pray and you'll shrink, shrink, shrink"--terrifying.)
I thought for sure something bad was going to happen to me because I was no longer pleasing God.
This was about the time my brother and I started talking about unconditional love and acceptance.
I started trying it out with J. It was hard at first. I wanted to reject him when he upset me.
Then we got a dog. She's great at unconditional acceptance. I started trying to treat others the way she treated me.
In fact, for Christmas one year, I gave J a bunch of coupons. One said, "Let it Go" and if I ever got uptight about something I told him he had permission for 12 months to give me that coupon and I had to chill out. There were other fun coupons, like "get out of dish-duty free", and "ironing all your shirts" (which I never do. I know, "bad wife".) It was the "no fighting" coupons he loved the most. We found calm ways to come to our compromises. And we learned a little bit more about unconditional love and acceptance.
Over the last two years, we've both been dealing with some hefty "demons" and the unconditional love and acceptance has been put to some real tests. But knowing J will always love me even when I put him through shit, actually helps me. Having someone like that in my life helps me move forward out from the garbage, instead of wallowing in it.
He doesn't love me because I'm easy to love, he loves me because he chooses to everyday.
(Ok, we both make mistakes, maybe every other day?)
Back to my original topic...
Now I have N. For the first time, unconditional love is not work. Maybe it will be as he gets bigger and more independent. Maybe then I'll have to choose love.
Because of N, for the first time I can imagine God's love being unconditional. It's still a conscious thought, I have to fight to believe it somedays. But I can imagine it. I didn't have a church home for over two years I never once felt his disappointment. Not once. I felt a lot of disappointment from others, but never God's. I realized that maybe the pressure to be just right and always do the next right thing also came from others and not God. Maybe God had always accepted me just like this, but I was always trying to be bigger and better.
Maybe when I said, "Screw this, I've done enough." God said, "Finally! She gets it! And now I can finally show her my love."
I used to try to please God.
Then I imagine N trying to please me.
It makes me sad.
I want N to know that he pleases me. No matter what. That I couldn't be more pleased. That he exists is the greatest joy in my life.
God is pleased with me. That I exist is the joy set before him.
Over the last two years some of my favorite words in the Bible have become: I AM.
God has never been a doing God, he has always been a being God.
When Moses asked for God's resume to show the Isrealites enslaved in Egypt, God said, "Why should I prove myself? Isn't it enough that I exist?" (Paraphrase much?)
He could easily have proven himself. "I created the sun and stars. I breathed life into lungs. I brought the flood. I promised Abraham a son and a nation and here you are." But he didn't. He said, "Tell them I AM sent you."
As if he's saying:
Will they accept Me as I accept them?
Now my favorite moments with God aren't in prayer, or in Bible reading, or in doing. The best ones are when we just ARE. Together.
He is. I am.
We accept each other that way.
I realize this is a big idea. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Send me an email, PM or comment on FB or give me a call anytime.
Do you genuinely believe God accept you unconditionally?
Do you think it's possible to accept/love other humans unconditionally?
The Jews reserve use of the words I AM because they are considered sacred. Do you think it's heretical of me to use the words I AM the way I have? To speak the same of myself as God did of himself?