I am at a point in my faith where I am trying to really understand and comprehend unconditional love. It is a term that we all know but do we fully understand it. I feel like to understand God’s unconditional love for me, I need to be able to grasp what unconditional love looks like in the tangible world.
So much “love” is based on reciprocity, but by definition, unconditional love isn’t. Unconditional love exists… no matter what. No matter what the other person feels about you. No matter what the other person has done or can do for you. What does that look like in the real world?
In our lives we have more tolerance for and give more grace to those who we love, but I think we are kidding ourselves when we think our grace for others in unending and unconditional. I love my friends, but I can also feel hurt pretty easily. Sadly, I am not sure my love for my friends could be classified as unconditional.
I would love to say that I love my husband unconditionally, but if I am brutally honest, I am not sure it is unconditional. There are a certain set of expectations I have for my husband and, if those expectations weren’t met for an extended period of time, I think resentment would build in my heart and it would be difficult to continue to love him. If he withdrew his love from me, it would be hard to continue to love him.
We all think that our love for our children is unconditional… and when push come to shove, I do believe that most of the time it is, but most of the time it is so wrapped up in the assumptions we make about our future relationships and expectations that we place on them that it isn’t always clear.
When I try and think of the purest example of unconditional love that I have seen in the real world, I think of Mathew.
When my friend was about about 16 weeks pregnant with her long awaited for twins, they were told the devastating news that one had a birth defect that was incompatible with life. He would survive the rest of the pregnancy but, if he was born alive, and that was a significant “if”, he wouldn’t survive very long.
It was at the twins’ birth that I saw unconditional love in its most tangible form. The love that this family poured out over their son was overwhelming and heartwarming. They had zero expectations of him. They didn’t love him for the amazing man he might become. They didn’t love him for jubilant child he would be. His family simply cherished every moment Mathew spent on this earth. None of their love was based on who he might become and the future relationship they might have. All of their love for him was based on him merely existing and simply because he belonged to them.
When I try and imagine how God loves us, I think of Mathew. God loves us solely because we exist and solely because we belong to him. Separate from any expectations, he loves us even when choose not to have a relationship with him. His love for us abounds even as he is heartbroken that we might not have the future he would want for us. God is unconditional love.
Sweet Mathew, thank you and your family for exemplifying unconditional love.