Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Unconditional love is hard

How many of you read the title of this entry and thought, "No kidding.  Giving unconditional love can be a real bear."  And it can.  Jesus was pretty clear that we are supposed to love one another but didn't include an "except when..." clause.   In our baptismal covenant we promise to seek and serve Christ in all others -- but that don't make it easy!  We've all experienced the challenges of giving unconditional love from "Do I really have to love Osama bin Laden?" (Yes, says Jesus.) to the rebellious teenager and everyone else in between...(yep, all of 'em!)  As they say, Christianity isn't for sissies.

This blog entry, however, is not about the difficulty of giving unconditional love.  It is about how hard it can be to receive unconditional love.  This is something I am learning about here.  It is a heart breaking lesson.   When your whole life has been nothing but abuse, exploitation, and rejection, unconditional love looks very suspicious.   My first exposure to that was with Jasmine, the young woman Suzy has tried repeatedly to save from prostitution, drug addiction, and life on the streets.  Jasmine was the first trafficked young woman in the safe house...for about 2 weeks.  Then she ran away.  Another girl recently ran away from the safe house after just a couple of days.  It completely boggles the mind.  How can they run from a place that provides safety, food, clothing, lodging, love?  It is particularly hard when they know exactly what they are running back to. 

Today I experienced this lesson first hand.  Maribel got angry this morning.  Maribel has a history of losing control of her anger.  One thing led to another and she packed up all her things and she and Fernando left.  This was after hours of Suzy trying to get her to see that Fernando is the one who will suffer, that we love her, that she has 3 people to think about.   I loaded all her things, playpen, stroller, awesome fire engine, big bulldozer, the new books I had just bought for Fernando, clothes, medicine, etc into my car and dropped her off at the bus stop of her choice.  I helped her get everything out of the car, paid a taxi to take her where she needed to go, gave her a big hug, burst into tears and told her I love her and Fernando.   We are terrified about what will happen to them.  She very likely has pregnancy related diabetes or something equally serious.  Fernando's health is precarious.  She is taking them both into a very dangerous world. 

What to make of this?  She simply could not comprehend the unconditional love she was receiving from us.  To her, everything we did would ultimately have strings attached.  She has already had 4 children taken away from her (she admits for good reason) and she is absolutely certain we and everyone will try to take Fernando from her.  Fernando is the one source of unconditional love that she can receive.  When I told Suzy about saying good bye to her, Suzy said that was probably the most beautiful moment of her life to date.   Imagine.  A single tearful good bye is the high point of 25 years?  I pray to God Suzy was wrong.

There is a strong temptation to write in an "except when" clause to the unconditional love commandment, an urge to judge Maribel, shake heads in disgust.  Please don't.  Please seek and serve Christ in her.  Please pray for Maribel, Fernando, and her unborn child.   Pray that maybe someday she can receive love from her brothers and sisters in Christ.

Post script:  After dinner I realized my ipod and portable speakers are missing.  They will either provide several meals for Maribel and Fernando or continue to lull Fernando to sleep.  Either way, it will be put to good use.  While looking for my ipod, I realized the Bible I had given her is also gone.  A glimmer of hope...