Re-Defining Love

Love. How do I explain?

Is it even possible to explain?

Some believe it’s a feeling, subject to being whimsical at best but I believe it’s beyond that, it’s a level of sacrifice we are not humanely privy to. I’m convinced there is only one being who can give authentic, unconditional love and that is God.

I never knew how much of an impact the absence of love from a father can have on a child. But hindsight is 2020.

In reflection, my accomplishments and behaviors may have demonstrated someone who felt truly loved by others and who truly loved herself but nonetheless, I had many struggles.

I never heard my father say those 3 beautiful words “I Love You.” Perhaps he expressed it by buying me stuff: the newest tech gadgets, video games, nice clothes. He even spent time talking on the phone with me, purchasing lots of takeout, and playing video games with my sister and I but I somehow cannot recall a day or time when he’s verbally expressed his love for us.

I can’t fault him. My family struggles with expressing love in many ways. I’m sure we may feel it and we may sometimes say the words but does the alignment of our actions and words cohesively portray a family who genuinely loves one another?

By the way, I truly love my family.

My dad was from a different generation of course. The baby boomers. I like to call them the “work-hard” generation. They pursued stable education and careers devoting their entire lives to work. Many times, spending little to no time with their families. I work with a few of these gems today. Although they love their families they can sometimes seem apathetic but it is possible that the many years of drowning themselves in work has caused that. However, it’s not their fault. Their parents also exemplified this.

My grandmother. A woman from the south who laid down her life to take care of her family. She helped her sisters and brothers escape the Jim Crow south and start new lives in the north. Although her past was always very colorful and intriguing to me I noticed how much she struggled to express the love that we desired. I recently learned about her past as a Jehovah’s Witness and how she held bible studies in her apartment before she became a Christian. She’s always portrayed herself as a believer and she was the first to bring my sister and I into a church. Even then I knew something was wrong, her lifestyle didn’t bear much fruit. If God loved us, why on earth was she not expressing that? Her expression of love for us was limited to cooking, cleaning and attending our school events. Although I love her for that and it’s taught me many things, her struggle with love is much more apparent now than it was then. I’m pretty sure she’s not a Christian today although despite her being convinced of her faith, I always question if she’s saved and share the gospel with her every chance I get. I am intrigued by how much she’s changed and how her zeal has disappeared over time.

Not to vindicate her in any way,  I had a dream about her last night. In that dream I heard her voice and as she usually does, she criticized my mother and I. I looked up and I saw a man which was strange. And I yelled out “why don’t you love me?! I love you!!” I woke up frantically from that dream feeling well aware of my family’s issues. They all struggle with love. In many cases, they do not know what love is or how to love because of the absence of a father.

The absence of a father doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve never met your father. I KNEW my father. However, the absence of a father is equivalent to a father in the flesh who does not demonstrate the true love of a father. A love that our Father demonstrates for us through Jesus Christ. One of God’s attributes is perfect love. Our Father God is the most awesome model of love we can ever know. His love exceeds far beyond anything we can ever comprehend. 1 John 4:7-8 reads Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 

7 beloved, let us love one another, for love is from god, and whoever loves has been born of god and knows god. 8 anyone who does not love does not know god, because god is love.

Once you’ve had an encounter with Jesus Christ He will transform your perception of love and help you to love deeper, love your neighbors, love enemies, love strangers but ultimately love Him. Your love for Him will pour out on others and help you to forgive your relatives and friends that may have hurt you. His love will help you to love just about anyone in your path. I pray that you have an encounter with Jesus, that you experience this love and allow Him to mend every broken part of your heart. I pray that His love transforms the paradigm of love that you have, your parents have and your parents’parents have. I pray that your families are restored, filled and overflowing with His love, forgiveness, and protection.

After giving my life to Christ at 23, the absence of a father no longer bothers me the way it has in the past. Although my father has passed away and his absence still lingers in my heart, the presence of God fills the void that was once there. His presence humbles me, convicts me and fills me with joy and peace and confidence all at the same time. Yet I still have a habit of sometimes of juxtaposing my Christian friends’ family to mine. I often reflect on how dysfunctional mine is in comparison. But then the Lord whispers to my heart and reminds me of who I am in Christ and that He has adopted me into His family. I am so grateful and overjoyed. Now I know that the love of the Father prevails, despite our past or any dysfunction our families may have. Our identity lies in Him.

May God continue to pour out His love unto you!

 

Author: Vanessa Mack

A Christian millennial, fascinated with grace, passionate about learning, tech, finance, expressive writing and encouraging others.

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