I have never met three little words as simple and complex and these. Each individual word is only one syllable, but it is as if every letter carries the weight of Kilimanjaro. Because each word means a million other words.
At the conclusion of my first year of foster parenting, I wrote a post titled Loving Your Kids. This post chronicled the beautiful agonies of loving someone with your whole heart and constantly seeing them go. There are several little boys and girls who will never remember me, but they carry fragments of my heart. The way a parent loves their child is essentially a replication of how God loves me: unrelentingly, at my worst, sacrificially, unconditionally, furiously, purposefully. I don’t think I ever loved people as passionately and ferociously as those little ones. Until now.
I enjoy my job. It is interesting and beneficial and challenging. However, I love my teens. Working with them reminds me of each and every day of being a foster mama. In dozens of ways, God used working at Casa de Esperanza to prepare me for working with my teens. I look back on my adolescence and having a conversation with my friend Jon Butts. It was about those three little words. I remember in my adolescent melancholy telling him, “If you say I love you too much, people won’t think you mean it.” I still hold to that statement, but it is with the added phasing, “If you show I love you, then people will know you mean it.”
Saying “I love you” communicates you have an affect on me. You. You as you are, are so worthy of love. In fact my love is a gift. I want you to accept it, but if you don’t it is always here. Because in the midst of the cursing and fighting I realize, for me to love my teens it requires absolutely nothing on their part. They don’t have to change. They don’t have to like me. I just love them. Know, I don’t do things perfectly. I trespass against them and am rude. I am annoying, and sometimes don’t know when to back off. However, they respond, I love them.
It is a humbling love.
It is a love that let’s another human call you a b#&$@ and not respond in wrath.
It is a love that forces you to sit in silence as another human pours out their rage on you.
It is a love that seeks healing for the brokenness.
It is a love that makes frightening police encounters opportunities to prove you are there for them.
It is a love that cries the tears that have already dried on their face.
It is a love that drives throughout Downtown Houston looking for truant teens
It is a love that when someone yells, “$@&# you” all you want to do is hug them.
It is a love that allows you to sit and paint the nails of a girl who doesn’t speak English.
It is a love that moves you from your desk to the basketball court while wearing a dress or a skirt
It is a love that finds opportunities for them to grow
It is a love that lobbies for the best possibilities.
It is a love that does not look past faults, but corrects them.
It is a love that sees potential and nurtures it.
It is a love that opens you up to empathize deeply and many time painfully so.
It is a love that daily wipes the slate clean.
It is a love that brings you to a place of utter transparency.
It is a love that desires to know the deepest yearning of their heart.
I don’t do all of this perfectly. I barely do half of them averagely, but the more I look at this list, the more I realize my Father’s love for me. His love knows and drives and moves and seeks and allows and nurtures and finds and desires and cleanses. And, His love is like this unrelentingly and perfectly with the same intensity at all times. His love is best. We are best equipped to love others when we know many of the ways our Father loves us.
There are dozens teens who probably will never remember me, but there are little mason jars, abbreviated authors, troublemakers, teen mamas, and many more who hold fragments of my heart. My hope and prayer in this moment is that they realize it was never my heart in the first place, but the heart of the Father.