Love is Messy

In a text conversation with a dear friend about parenting, I made this comment:

Love is messy.

Staring at the words on my screen, I saw more truth than I had even intended when I wrote to her.  I’m pretty sure most of us don’t consider the “messiness” when we think of loving someone.  We imagine of long walks hand-in-hand, or holding a baby who sweetly sleeps in our arms.  We envision children with sloppy bouquets of wildflowers in their grubby hands, staring up at us, saying, “Mommy, I luv you.”

Child with Boquet 2

When I found out I was pregnant with my oldest, I was well into my life.  At 35 years old, many women are wrapping up the giving birth part of things and moving into carpooling to soccer, dance recitals and parent-teacher conferences.  We were a little late starting our family and I was overjoyed.  My heart swelled with possibilities.  I wanted a son – an older brother who would lead all his siblings and shepherd them with brother-love.  Contrary to my customary looking toward the future with some apprehension, I looked down the road of motherhood with great hope.  My husband and I were going to do this parenting thing with finesse {it’s okay, you can laugh at our naivete}.

Enter a real human being.

Motherhood surprised me in so many delightful ways.  I never knew the way my heart would be capable of sacrifice and endurance.   I had no concept he would sweep me away as he did.  I was smitten beyond recognition.  From the get-go this first born of mine challenged me.  His birth consisted of 48 hours of hard labor followed by an emergency C-Section.  The six-week recovery {did I really ever recover from that?} made me incapable of activities I had taken for granted before childbirth.

Jor as a Preschooler

As he grew, my son revealed his will of steel.  You’ve all heard of the strong-willed child.  God gave me a child with a mind of his own and a spirit equally strong.  While all toddlers go through the “no” and “mine” stages, this child gave new meaning to taking a stand.  God designed him to lead and be sure of himself.  The great traits I admire in him are also the hardest to shepherd. 

We’re in the teen years now – swimming in the deep waters of mood swings, misunderstandings, and launching into independence.  At 14 years old, my son shows maturity, thoughtfulness, creativity and ingenuity.  He also occasionally bucks against our values and rules while stretching me to my outer limits. I feel God refining me like never before.  My husband and I are being drawn into greater unity and harmony in our marriage {that is when we aren’t arguing about how to handle the new challenges of this parenting season!}  We’ve had to set some firm limits and enforce those with consequences.  My heart aches for my son to succeed in life in the ways that matter most.  Lost privileges or missed opportunities sting at this age.  Yet, I know the parameters we set provide him the very resources he needs to choose well.  We can’t force his hand, but we can lay out boundaries and outcomes and refuse to fund, resource or bless anything that falls outside of our limits. 

Love is messy.

If you are going to love someone, it will cost you.  Love means investing in real human beings.  Love means pouring out onto sinners – because the people we imagine {the perfect boyfriend or husband, the amazing children who say yes all the time and go to sleep when they are supposed to, the family members who always see things our way} they don’t exist.  Love extends itself into the mess of real life with people who are broken, sinful and incomplete.

At the Cross

The love of Jesus shows us the way.  He came down from His comfortable, exalted place to be with us in the mess.  He walks with sinners and loves them into wholeness.  He gave everything He had and the totality of who He was to show love and make it possible for us to return love in even a fraction of the way He did.  His love is the messiest love of all.

Loving our children will mean late nights with insomnia ridden days.  We’ll have diapers explode on our favorite outfits.  We may never lose the baby weight – or the weight of the concern we carry for them every day they walk out the door to live life in this big, crazy world.  We’ll be the brunt of their tantrums and outbursts.  Walking through their heartbreaks with them, we’ll suffer when they suffer.  No one will hope the best for them like we do.  Yet we never have control over their choices. 

Love is messy.

I’d rather get my hands dirty, loving in this messed up world

than to miss the glory of love.  

Dirty Hands 2

I love in the middle of messiness because He first loved me in all my mess. 

He loves me enough to patiently walk me forward – as I learn more fully how to love. 

Are you in the middle of a messy season in your parenting?  I’d love to hear about it or pray for you.  You are not alone.  You can share here or on the Hearts Homeward Facebook Page.

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