When we start to talk about the fundamentals of being a family, we must begin with love. A family without love is just a bunch of people living in the same house. To the world we are a family because we shame the same address. But it is in love that we find the only true bond that can bring a family together.
When it comes to love, there are two aspects we must consider.
Love without condition
Deep within us we want both to love and to be loved. We are made to love. Part of this is because we were made in the image of God, and Scripture tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8).
In most cases, each member that arrives in a family enters an atmosphere of abundant love.
Do you remember the day your son or daughter was born and you held them in your arms for the first time? For mothers, the memory of the pain of childbirth is often erased by the joy and love felt at such a moment.
I remember when my oldest was born. My reaction was probably similar to most fathers. After all, for the father, we do not have something growing inside us, kicking us through the day, squeezing our bladders. That “birth” day is sometimes the first tangible evidence for us men. We realize that life has changed in a flash. But we, too, feel that abundance of love towards the newborn. Often we feel it to the point that we don’t want to touch “it” for fear of breaking “it.” That initial outpouring of love is love without condition. I love you simply because you are. You exist; flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone, as Adam said when Eve was created.
Allow me to give you two statements that help us define and put into practice love without condition:
(1) I give you all of my love so that I cannot love you more or less.
Those of us who grew up in a family with more than one child understand how easy it is to believe that Mom and Dad could have a favorite. As parents who have more than one child, we must do all we can to disprove this theory. Though it may still be felt from time to time, it is our job to show love equally to all.
Note, though, that this is not the same as showing love the same to all. I believe this is part of the trap parents fall into. We have loved one child a certain way for so long, so we love those after using the same expressions of love.
We must remember that each child is unique. We must find out what they desire as expressions of love. Dr. Gary Chapman calls this their “love language.” Each one of us is different, so we look for love differently. The key, then, is to find out what each child is looking for to show that Mom and Dad love him/her.
(2) There is nothing that will stop me from loving you.
Early on, this is not so important to prove. Of course, if you fall off your bike, we still love you. If you don’t color inside the lines, we still love you. But as our children grow and mature, they will have a deep-seated need to know that whatever they do in life, they will be loved.
Now, I would be one to say that unconditional love does not equal unconditional support. We should not support everything our children do just because (A) he/she wants to do it, or (B) we feel like we have to prove our love. This is not so much love, as being a “good feelings” bank. We need to spur our children on towards good things. Parents are in a unique position to take note of and “water” the gifts and abilities of their children. When we become that “good feelings” bank, we are really shirking the responsibility we have to point our children in a direction that is good for them.
Imagine if God, because of His love for us, gave us unconditional support in everything we set out to do. He doesn’t, and He would never do so. His desire is to draw us unto Himself, to claim a pure and spotless Bride for His Son. So He corrects and challenges us, pointing us from some of the things we like to do, and towards those things we should be doing.
With that said, we must be careful not to allow correction to be hurtful. We must do everything in love, and that in obvious love. There should be no question that our children are loved despite failures, changes in direction, money or family problems, or any wrong they may take themselves into. Remember the saying, “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” And do so with deliberate intent to make your love obvious.
Love without measure
There are two statements that we can utilize in expressing love with measure:
(1) There is no end to my love for you.
(2) My love cannot be exhausted.
Sometimes this is hard to “flesh out.” After all, we have many demands that constantly pull at us, day and night, day after day after day. The key is to remember and communicate this truth: I may be exhausted, physically and/or emotionally, but my love will always continue. Even if I consider you the cause of my exhaustion, I will always love you.
Illustration: TBOC St. George
Parents and students have recently awakened to the drug epidemic in our community. So a movement has started called, Take Back Our Community. This drug issue is not just an inner-city problem, not something that follows “good kid” versus “bad kid” lines as we adults tend to see them. It is about peer-pressure; about wanting to fit in, to be accepted, to be liked, to be part of this or that group that attracts all the cute guys/girls, to be respected, to prove that “I’m no chicken,” to feel like I’m more than I feel like right now.
In one of the monthly meetings a question and answer period was provided to obtain ideas to help in this project. These ideas could be developed into programs to help increase efforts and work towards the goal of taking back the community. These projects would then be directed by the school or town or local clergy.
One parent stood and asked if there was a program or campaign the schools could use to “bombard” children, starting at the preschool level, that they are loved and important. This, of course, is a good question, but it was pointed at the wrong audience. It is not up to our schools, or even our churches, to teach our children that they are loved. My kids, deep down, aren’t interested in what the church or schools have to say if they do not feel loved and important at home.
Each of these, love without condition and love without measure, must be poured out on the members of our family.