Hesitantly, the Son walks over to say goodbye and offers a hug to his Father. Awkwardly, the Father hugs the Son back quickly, and from the spectator’s viewpoint, one would believe that there isn’t much love between them. However, the spectator knew that in twenty plus years of knowing the Father and Son, this was hug number three and significant progress of expressing love between them just occurred. As the Son walks towards the door, the Father says twice, “be sure to come back if you have the chance.” The spectator pointed out to the Son that what his Father was trying to express was, “I miss you, and I want to spend time with you again soon.” The Son had no idea of the message embedded within the reiterated words because he stopped expecting affection long ago and can’t recognize it when it occurs so many years later. Naturally, the Son was conditioned this way – the same way his Father was trained.
Sometimes love is delivered in a strange package and not the way that we envision. We don’t recognize love given in atypical forms because we’re too busy looking for how we want to receive it or how we’ve been conditioned and miss the hidden beauty of the strangely wrapped gift. It’s not always expensive paper and fancy ribbons. Sometimes it arrives with jagged scissor cuts and battered bows. If we stop looking for love based on expectations and merely love unconditionally, our hearts are open to receiving it regardless of how strangely the package appears. We embrace the gift vs. rejecting their love offering.
Once we realize that people show love the same way they learned, we shift our expectations towards compassion. Perhaps they didn’t grow up with hugs, kisses and texting “love you” everyday. Perhaps they were neglected, rejected or abused, and never heard the words uttered “love you.” Perhaps offering a tangible gift is the only way they know how to express love or saying, “be sure to come back if you have the chance.”
Jesus said in Mark 12:31 “Love your neighbor (others) as yourself.” He didn’t say, “Love others back only when they show love to you the way that you expect.” He also never said that unconditional love is easy and not heartbreaking at times. Jesus knows our struggles and our heart better than anyone. Do we struggle with this? Absolutely! Indeed, I find this difficult, and I’m far from perfect at loving unconditionally. That’s why we seek the Lord daily to mature His strength in this area of our lives and all others. The more we practice His ways, the more we pour His love into those who don’t know how to show love and eventually, they learn how by receiving the unconditional gift.
Shalom and God Bless!