“We love because he first loved us” I John 4:19
This verse took on new meaning for me recently. I love all my children, but I would be lying if I said it isn’t easier to love them when they show you love in return. When babies are first born, we love them simply because they are our children, not because they have done anything to deserve that love or to love us in return. But then slowly they begin to respond to us and give us love in return and it becomes easier to love them. Elijah is at the age when he is starting to show some affection for us and it is so wonderful to get some love back for all the love we have expressed to him. Joshua has been slow to show us love. It took him longer to smile than most kids, but he was so rewarding when he finally did. Now, he will allow you to hold him in your lap, but doesn’t want to be cuddled. I don’t know if it’s just a personality thing or if it has something to do with his special circumstances, but he is not what I would call cuddly. He has never hugged or kissed us and hasn’t even laid his head on my shoulder, ever. Honestly, it’s hard. I pray that someday he will do that and some day he will say, “mommy, I love you”. But until then we keep loving and expect little in return.
The other day I was lamenting this to God. To be honest, this is especially hard on me as the mommy. I love to cuddle my boys and get hugs and kisses. It doesn’t bother Glenn as much because he doesn’t need all that to feel loved. But for me, that is how I show affection. Some of my boys like hugs more than others, but they all allow me to hug them or show them physical affection in some way. All but Joshua. He just doesn’t want me hugging him. I know that I have rejection issues, I admit that, and that compounds this issue, but his lack of affection feels like rejection sometimes. I have had to work through those feelings and just hug him anyway, no matter what his response is. So, as I was talking to God about all this He pointed me to this verse above. He showed me that we were all like Joshua once, we didn’t want His love, but He gave it anyway so that we might be saved. We rejected Him, but He still loved us. What a humbling realization for me. I still reject God’s love at times. Sometimes I am too busy to spend time with Him. Sometimes I don’t listen to His still, small voice and reject his directions in my life. There are many ways I don’t always accept His love and it hurts Him just as Joshua’s rejection hurts me at times.
When I first had kids, I learned what it meant to become unselfish. Those of you who are parents know what I am talking about. Once you have kids you can no longer just do whatever you want, you have to think of someone else’s needs first. When you have a child with special needs that is compounded. It teaches you to weed out whatever selfish needs for affection you might have, in my case, and realize that I have to love Joshua not based on what he does in response to me, but just because. Love is a choice and not a feeling. No matter what other people might tell you. Love is action, it’s what you do. There were times when we first got Joshua that I didn’t feel all warm and gushy about him, but I realized that wasn’t necessary to loving him. I loved him every time I changed his diaper, or feed him. I loved him by DOING things for him. There are times still when I don’t feel gushy about my kids, but I still love them. I love them by doing their laundry and cleaning their house. I love them in a million ways every day. Love that is based on what someone else will do for you, is shallow love and not the kind of love God calls us to. Motherhood, and especially mothering a special needs child, has taught me that. But there is one person that will love me always, no matter what my response to Him, and that is Jesus. I can lean on that love and know it is always there, just as my children can lean on my love and know that no matter how they respond to me, I will love them anyway.
One of the pastors at my church did a sermon a few years ago called “The Annoying Love of Jesus.” It was all about God’s persistent, ever present, cannot be ignored love. This is the kind of love we show our kids. I’m sure Joshua loves you and someday he will express it. In the meantime just keep “annoying” him with love:)
This makes me think of older kids too, who are too “cool” for parental affection. But I know that if they were actually able to sway their parents with their reaction/rejection/attitude, it would be so scary for them.