What is unconditional love? Have you ever experienced it?
I once thought I knew what unconditional love was. Life seemed full of it, abounding in each direction I turned. Children were everywhere and I loved them all. Friends encircled me…work friends, church friends, social friends…friends I’d had all of my adult life. Family grew thick and strong, shoots of it stabilizing my life. I was like a farmer smiling at his crop just before the harvest…so very sure that nothing could ever destroy what I’d worked so hard for.
Then life came knocking. The brutal, ugly side of life that no one likes to acknowledge. The side that will kick you in the teeth and leave you on the ground. And unconditional love ceased to exist. Like a wave receding from the shore, most of what I had considered stable and sure was swept out to sea. In an instant, it was simply gone.
What was left was a very ragged, harried version of myself. A depressed and lonely creature that fought every day not to become bitter. Even sad, I knew I didn’t want to be that person. Even sad, it took every ounce of strength I had left in me to rise above what life pummeled me with.
The result was a lesson…a huge lesson in what unconditional love truly is. And now I know the true meaning of it.
Unconditional love simply means loving with your whole being, no strings attached. Not many can do this…it requires way too much work and giving of your own self. Not many can let go of what society says and love anyway. Loving that way demands that you love even when things are wrong and hard. It demands that you give even when you may despise the quality of another person’s life. Love dictates that you keep on opening yourself to another even when you want to give up.
But you never give up. That’s the unconditional part. You keep praying and you keep loving the unlovable and you keep believing that someday things will be better.
I am so blessed to have survived and made it to the other side of the teeth-kicking. My teeth have even healed enough for me to smile and mean it. The numbers may be few but I have been blessed with unconditional loves. People who love no matter what. Nothing is a greater gift…not anything.
Those people…mostly family because isn’t that where unconditional love grows the strongest?…stick. We stick together and we push forward. Little blessings come along. Little blessings like our dog who appeared at my very lowest time. I’ll never doubt that God plopped her into my lap when He knew I needed her most. And blessings like sisters, the blood and non-blood kind, that listen to you cry and keep coming back for more. Mostly, blessings like a husband and children that love you even after living with you…that’s the truest form.
The biggest lesson in unconditional love has been my relationship with God. At my lowest, I was never alone. The years have taught me to rely less on the love and approval of others and more on the relationship between us. As that grows stronger, so does my love for my family. God is teaching me day by day to never give up…that there is always light after the dark. Never give up on dreams, on children, on marriage. Never quit loving and giving. Never stop believing in yourself. Never think that life can’t get better because it can. And it has.
That is unconditional love.