Friday, 2 January 2015

Au-some love...

Unconditional love: affection without limitations
      Love without conditions
      “Mothers/Fathers” love

A few weeks ago, I attended my daughters kindergarten Christmas presentation. Anyone who has been to one of these can picture the scene. Teachers flitting and fluttering, ensuring the children are where they should be, and that microphones are working. Mums and Dads and grandparents crowded into seats, settling extra babies, and making sure that cameras are at the ready to catch their little ones debut on the small stage.
When the production begins, you begin to notice the children. All dressed as wee angels and sheep and wise men. There are the ooohs and aahhhhs and claps for the children who have lines, and who pull them off perfectly. There are the few boys up the front who while the production continues are having their own joke, but who quickly remember to start singing with everyone else when the music starts. The crowd murmurs ‘oh how cute’ ‘they are doing so well’ ‘thats my girl up there, she remembered all her lines without a cue card!’.
Then there is the little girl at the back of the crowd of children on the stage. While the other children sing and wave at their parents, she plays intently with a stick of straw from the baby’s manger. She keeps her eyes down throughout most of the presentation. She looks confused when the other children sing.  When one of the other childrens angel wings keeps brushing her face, she looks agitated but holds it together. Eventually she starts crying, and one of the teachers helps her off the stage into her mothers waiting arms. My waiting arms. You see, this little girl, my little
 Hannah- has autism.
And while watching her on that stage, I felt such love and affection and admiration for my little girl. She may not have been one of the girls with the lines, who spoke beautifully. She may not have been the great singer, or the child who stole the show, or the boys who made everyone laugh with their little game.... but she didn’t have to be. She was my wonderful little girl, up on a stage with everyone else. She was just as excited as everyone else to get dressed into costume, and although it didn’t appear like it, I know there were parts of that experience she really enjoyed. My joy and love in her in that moment was overwhelming, not because she was the best, but just because she was her, and as her mother, my love for her is unconditional.
When I thought about it later, I realised that this is like Gods love for us. No matter how imperfect our performance is in this world, God loves us. It doesn’t matter if we are the kid at the front, saying all our lines perfectly, or the kid who wanders off the stage, God loves us fully and unconditionally.
It doesn’t matter if we are successful in this life, or if we fail and fall crying into the arms of our Father. He will be proud of us, and love us, and comfort us in either circumstance.
But unconditional love doesn’t just end there. It doesn’t stop at a powerful feeling of love and acceptance. Tim Keller, in his book Kings Cross , describes both conditional and unconditional love in a way that helps us understand Gods love for us even further. False love, or conditional love as he describes it is where you give your love and acceptance on the condition that you get something in return. This is a very human love isn’t it? Loving someone as long as they love you back, as long as they need you, and meet your needs and you feel accepted. True love, or unconditional love is loving someone regardless of what they do. It is loving someone so much that your aim is to “spend yourself and use yourself for the happiness of the other, because your greatest joy is that person’s joy”. Unconditional love is sacrificial, because you give of yourself to the other, without needing or wanting anything in return.
Although I was grateful to capture in a moment a glimpse of Gods love for us while I watched my daughters kindy play, I realise that as human I am not capable of the degree of unconditional love that God gives to us.
While I feel love for my daughter with all her good points and imperfections, and while I sacrifice and give all that I am to help her get every tool she needs to help her cope with autism (and am happy to do it), I have days when I despair at the lack of return. When I wish just for once the picture in my head of the two way relationship between myself and my daughter would come to life.
I have come to understand through all of this that Gods love and sacrifice for us is so much bigger than I ever imagined. That as much as I am overwhelmed with love for my daughter no matter what, God loves us more than that. That as much joy I take in the tiniest thing Hannah does, God takes joy in us more. That no matter how much I sacrifice for my daughter to help her on earth, God has sacrificed so much more to help us eternally.
God loved us so much, and so unconditionally, that he sacrificed his own son Jesus, to die for us, so that we would be able to spend eternity with Him in heaven.
While we ignore Him, forget He exists, become preoccupied with the things of this world, stress out about things we don’t understand- God has sacrificed all of himself for us, because of his great love for us.
And he doesn’t need or want anything in return. God has already sacrificed and showered us with his love and acceptance. We don’t need to prove how much we deserve it.
Hannah didn’t need to say all the lines right, or sing the right words, or even stay on stage the whole time. I didn’t love her any less when she cried and fell into my arms. I was just so happy and proud of her just as she was.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world, he gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

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