I want to tell you about someone who loves me.
He has loved me all my life, from the time I was in my mother’s womb. He loved me when I was frail and helpless and messy and when I said silly or ridiculous things; still he loved me. He did not abandon me when others did, even when doing so would have been understandable. Caring for me was hard on many levels. Sometimes I wasn’t loveable. Sometimes I asked for all his time and attention, as if I were the only thing that should ever matter. I was selfish. I was 5, then 9, then 13, but always selfish. Even when it was hard he loved me. He is loyal and keeps his promises, even to his own hurt.
And as I grew I did hurt him plenty. His boundaries for me, though set for my safety and well-being, were like prison bars and handcuffs. I bristled against him and his love whenever I got the chance. I reveled in rebellion, never considering how my behavior made him feel. And still he loved me and provided for me all things, even beyond my necessities. He even provided fun. In fact, fun is what he loves best. He loved and still loves laughing with me.
He loved me when I was not returning his love. It was often a one-sided affair. The Bible describes this love: “There is not fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18) For the longest time I could not fathom what it meant because I was always afraid of losing the love of this or that person. How could love be fearless? When all the while he was demonstrating for me exactly how. He gave me love without concern for getting. Anything. Perfect love is not a deposit into escrow for later. It is forgotten the moment it leaves a soul, bound for another, and its only concern is for the other. Perfect love doesn’t need to fear because it is the origin. I can send it like a letter and know that it got there, even if I don’t get an rsvp. That is what he did for me.
Those of you who know me probably think I’m talking about Jesus. Those of you who know my dad may have realized I’m talking about him. My dad gave up his life to single-handedly parent me and my brother when we were 5 and 2, respectively. My dad put up with the most hellacious, maverick, conniving child ever to crouch on a parent’s last nerve. But enough about my brother…
Seriously, I was the bane of his existence in my teenage years. He tirelessly taught me what it looks like to respect someone, to love selflessly and perfectly. Today is his birthday. Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you.
Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,
does not act unbecomingly; is does not seek its own, is not provoked,
does not take into account a wrong suffered,
does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7