Friday, April 22, 2011

Unconditional Love

This Sunday we will take Reese to church for her first Easter. She will sit in the pew and play with her toys and make faces at the people around us, growing more and more restless as the minutes pass. She won't comprehend the readings or the message. She won't understand why this is such an important day, and she won't understand the reason for such a celebration. Actually, she reminds me of how I have approached all of my past Easters. Maybe I don't make faces at people or wave a stuffed animal in the air, but I know I haven't always understood Easter the way I do now. In a way, it feels like a first Easter for me too, because this is the first year that I am approaching the Easter weekend with a greater understanding of God's love for me.

I always thought I understood unconditional love, but now that I have a child I realize that my view of it was incredibly superficial. Here's an example: Matt and I are Catholic so before our wedding we had to participate in a marriage preparation program. For one of the requirements we completed a survey and went over the answers with our priest. One of the questions said something like, "if my spouse was unfaithful, I would stay married." We both marked "no," making it clear to each other that infidelity is a deal breaker for both of us. However, even knowing that, we have said on multiple occasions that our love for each other is unconditional. We clearly didn't fully understand what it means to give someone unconditional love. But once Reese was born, we both felt a love for her that we had never experienced before, even with each other. There are no deal breakers for Reese. No matter what she does, no matter how she strays, we will welcome her home with open arms. We want her to live her life knowing that she will not be loved more or less as a result of how she behaves, what career she chooses, or who she marries. I finally started to understand what people mean when they say that God's love for us is completely unconditional.

Matt and I recently had a conversation about the conditions of our love and we both retracted the limits we once set on each other. After that talk, I felt refreshed and at peace knowing that his love for me is not dependent upon my actions. It makes me want to be a better spouse in every way because I am so thankful for such a special love. That's how I feel now when I think about God's love - that He loved me enough to send His son to die for my sins, and that no matter what I do, no matter how I stray, my return to Him will always be met with open arms. It's hard to imagine that my love for Matt and his love for me and our love for Reese represent only a tiny fraction of God's love for us. Now that I understand that more fully, I will sit in church on Sunday and feel more thankful for Jesus' sacrifice and more joyful for His resurrection than ever before. Even though I will be celebrating Easter for the 29th time, it is the first time that I am truly celebrating with a deeper appreciation for God's gift of unconditional love.

Happy Easter!

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