My husband,, George, and I, recently celebrated 37 years of marriage – a marriage made in Heaven – not because it is perfect, but because of our love and commitment to each other, our family, and our God. Our anniversary caused me to reflect on my parents’ marriage, also far from perfect, with no anchor on which to lean and no hope or faith to which to turn.
“The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”
When I first read this quote more than 40 years ago, its sting hit me hard, causing me to wonder if, somehow, the author knew the intimate details of my life. I had never seen love between my father and my mother; perhaps it was there behind closed doors, but I doubt it.
They were young when they married; a second unplanned pregnancy forcing a decision I am sure neither was prepared to make. My father’s tour of duty in Korea either caused or worsened his manic depression, something I will never know because the reality of mental illness (in that era and even somewhat today) was still locked away behind closed doors – never admitted or discussed – like the monster hiding under the bed waiting for the right moment to pounce.
Long were the nights when my father did not return home, sometimes for days on end or sometimes in the wee hours of the morning, with alcohol on his breath, when he quietly came
into my room to check on me and give me a kiss goodnight. I would pretend to be asleep but never was, the fear of his absence permeating my being, certain that an intruder would invade our apartment (which had been robbed on several occasions), taking away what little material possessions we had and, even worse, our lives.
This was Brooklyn, New York, in the 1960s, and although our neighborhood was not the worst, it was not the greatest either. I NEVER felt safe there – perhaps more a figment of my deeply wounded and scarred imagination; or perhaps a fear that emanated from within and found its way to all corners of my life. Little was the love I felt, saw, or experienced. Greater was the sense that life and death were something to be feared and that love, as they say, was only meant for fairy tales.
Is it any wonder, then, that so many children and deeply wounded adults do not know HOW to love and, upon trying, resemble a crooked mannequin barely teetering on its stand? We think that sex is the answer and do more harm than good in our vain attempt to fill the hole in our hearts. Many of us have also been sexually abused, the result of poor choices and bad judgment which has told us that (perhaps) any sexual attention is better than being disregarded outright. And the sink hole grows deeper.
We were meant to be loved, cared for, protected and nourished
– something that we do not even have to be taught. We were actually created to be loved.
An infant must experience love and nurturing, otherwise the brain will not develop normally. If these needs are not met during the critical developmental first year of life, abnormalities result and children lose the ability to form attachments with others. It is because the cells in the brain, not receiving sufficient and appropriate stimulation, begin to die and atrophy from disuse, just like a muscle if not used. Despite the presence of all other life requirements, such as food and water, without loving contact, infants will fail to thrive. Those who have not been loved as children, don’t feel lovable and can not love themselves or others.
“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread,” – Mother Teresa.
Look around at the people we see everyday – whose lives reflect this sad (even horrific) reality. We live in a world of broken marriages and lives; unwanted children who continue the cycle of lovelessness; and a society on the brink of emotional destruction – craving that which Hollywood tells us is desirable while intuitively knowing all of that is a lie.
But it does not have to be that way. There is an answer to the passion and the greatest power on earth – LOVE – that we ALL so desperately need and desire. The answer is God, who IS
love. It is not that God has love, although He does, but that He IS love. Love is His very nature and, as such, it cannot change.
The root, therefore, and the very core of our being can be healed as we allow His love to change us from within. Is it painful? Yes. Is it worth it? Definitely.
Would we live with the constant pain of a decaying tooth until we are ultimately screaming in agony? Would we accept a fake check (no matter how much it is worth) knowing that nothing could be bought with the currency?
That is what living without love is like. God – the great physician (Mark 2:17), the surgeon who leaves no scars, can and will heal us from our every wounded way. He will restore (and in many cases) create a heart of flesh within — “I will remove the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh,” Ezekiel 36:26. He will do it, as we ask Him to, by first revealing the depth of His great love for us individually.
The lies and rumours that have swirled around us, like tornadoes on a path of mass destruction, will find no place on which to land as the truth of His love reshapes our abandonment mentality. The sun which lingered ominously behind the clouds, will begin to shine in our lives, and warm us with his love and and we will never be the same.
And we, living in the light of His love – will love each other, our children, our families and all those He loves… and help us to change our world.