by Laura Rinas
I will be completely honest and say that I am one of Those Mothers… that gleefully skip down the sidewalk on the first day of school, high-fiving other parents on the way. I love my babies, I really do. But by the end of summer, when our to-do lists have been crossed off and forgotten, and we are surviving on embarrassing amounts of screen time and frozen pizza, we are ALL READY. The image of my babies riding off into the sunrise on their school bus does not often stir a whole lot of emotion, other than that ball of joy that forms when you realize you can do the grocery shopping on your own now.
But every once in a while, I catch a glimpse of the NOW, of the HERE, and it takes my breath away.
Yesterday morning started like any other. We did the first round of Walk To The School Bus for my big two, then came home and readied for our next round, where my four year old would be the one I load for his half day at school. We’ve been doing this for a few weeks now, and while I still just want to squeeze him every time I see him make the just too big step up onto the bus because SO CUTE, the newness of it has worn off. It’s routine at this point.
So imagine my surprise when, after watching him toddle up the steps into the bus, I was struck by such a wave of emotions that it felt as if my heart stopped. He had plopped down on his seat, turned, looked out the window and gave me a huge grin. As the bus pulled away, he waved, mouthed either I love you or I have to poo, and off he went. Suddenly, without warning, he became my baby again. The love I felt for him in that moment felt like it would crush me, it was so great. Suddenly it was my own heart that was riding away from me on that bus, and I knew with a fierce sincerity that I would do literally anything to protect him. As I walked the block back to my house, I tasted this protective, jealous love in my mouth. It’s not as if I walk around not loving my children and this was uncommon, because that is decidedly false. But mostly my love for them plays in the background, it’s a given, something that is assumed and does not cause a stir of emotion to this level. To have it broiling on the surface like this, captivating all of my thoughts… that was uncommon.
When I got home, I started getting dressed for the day. I pulled out my black leggings, and the only dress I own. I pulled my hair up and twisted it into a bun. My husband met me downstairs, and we walked hand in hand to a church a few blocks away. We took our seats amidst others clothed in black, and I spent the next hour absorbing a different kind of love, a kind that is mixed with grief and longing, rich with memories and sadness and a gentle understanding of something that we cannot see. I held my husband’s hand as the hundred or so people sung, prayed and reminisced about our late neighbor, who passed suddenly last week. I cried softly, even though we probably knew her the least of these people gathered here. It wasn’t her passing that drew tears from my eyes, but the grief that was apparent on the faces of her family. I cried for the hole that they would have to fill, for the habits that would have to be abruptly ended, for the small, mundane memories they would forget over time. I sat in the pew and tasted this salty kind of love, one that is thankful on the inhale and grieving on the exhale. One that is brought on by death, but also overcomes it. One that loses its point of focus, so instead bears one another up as we struggle to find a new normal.
Fast forward to that evening, the kids in bed after the normal push and pull of THIRST, HUNGER, SPOOKY THINGS that usually command the rhythms of our bedtime rituals. We locked up and walked together upstairs. We stepped over the train tracks, the books, the cars, the dirty socks that never quite make it to the Very Official Pile of laundry that forms quite naturally outside of our bathroom. We did our ritualistic search for any of the more adventurous cars that may have made it into our bed, pushing aside sippy cups and lovies that were left there during the earlier melee. And then, with a quiet breath and a small smile, we made love, right there in the middle of life. We stepped out of our day, out of our schedule, and allowed ourselves to just feel, just move. It was nothing spectacular, but it didn’t have to be. It didn’t arise from a place of sexiness or passion, but a place of security and unabashed and steady love, one that tasted like kissing and trust. One that felt as comfortable and easy as breathing, albeit a bit faster.
Three kinds of love, an unfinished myriad of togetherness, just a small piece of the huge mosaic that is that unfathomable feeling.
In each of these moments, you can find a greater love, a more full and significant movement of the heart. I see God’s own parental love for us in my fierce love for my son, I see his jealous pursuit of me and my affection. I see God’s own sacrifice for us in the church hall, whispering amidst us that death is not the end, that a greater life, a greater togetherness is awaiting us just beyond that thin veil. And I see God’s own tenderness for us in the arms of my husband, promising an openness that can only come when you are with someone who knows every detail of you and still yearns for you.
These are mere shadows of God’s multifaceted love for us. His is a love that we could never hope to understand, and yet, when we catch glimpse in it in his creation, it should take our breath away.
When you are tempted to feel far away from God’s love, look into your own life. Look to the people who love you, the people you love. And understand that though we are broken, and our love for each other can often times leave someone wanting, we are in the very act of giving and receiving love mimicking our Savior, our community-steeped triune God. We are, sometimes without knowing or understanding it, expressing our likeness with the very creator of the universe. Remember that even the best exchange of love that we can have with another soul on this earth falls so short of the complete and all-encompassing love that God offers us every day.
So seek these out, the moments where you can inhale and exhale love. Any kind of love. There are so many to choose from. Don’t believe the lies that love is conditional, something that must be portioned lest we run out. It’s simply not true. Invite your neighbor over for dinner. Put down your work and play a silly game with your child. Choose to seek joy with your spouse. Smile at the people you pass in the grocery store. Let someone sneak ahead of you in the line of traffic. Love without holding your hand out, rejoice when that love is returned ten-fold, and move on unharmed when it’s not.
This is how we love. We love because He loved us first. Amen and thank God for this radical kind of love.