Happily Even After
The True Nature of Parental Love
By Stacey Noem
When we visited the Holy Land this summer I kept a journal. Recently, as the busy-ness of the new school year begins to settle down, I re-read it. I was reminded of my experience at the Holy Sepulchre, specifically at Jesus’s tomb.
The day we visited the church, we arrived extremely early in the morning and headed directly to the tomb. The tomb is actually covered by a very small chapel with doors built over/around it. When we got there the doors were still closed. I could think of no other place in the church to go while we waited – where else could I possibly want to be other than at the door of the tomb? So, I took a seat on a nearby step. It felt right to simply sit and attend.
Sitting there, I noticed that even with the doors not open for visits, I felt possessive of the space. As though it belonged to me. In fact, we were not even the first ones there that morning. Others had arrived before us. But with every newly arriving group, I felt that same tightening inside, a competitive spirit: me vs. others.
Then, as I sat and reflected and thought of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus, I realized: He did this for every one of us equally.
And that changed something inside of me. I could choose to untighten, to open myself, to feel free of a competitive spirit. It was humbling. I became free to view the others arriving and waiting as both as insignificant as I must also be, but also as individually precious as I must also be.
Reading my account of the experience sparked a connection with the memory of a conversation I had with some college students in Portland many years ago. I was trying to explain the nature of parental love. I told them that when we only had Oscar that love was unlike any other I had experienced. It was so total.
In fact, when we found out we were expecting Simon-Peter, my fierce loyalty and complete devotion to Oscar left me wondering how I could possibly share that love – divide it – with another child.
Of course, after Simon was born I learned the full truth about the nature of parental love: it is utterly and fully complete for each of our children. Nothing is divided. I love Oscar fully. I love Simon fully. I love Lucy fully. My love for each of them diminishes nothing in my love for the others.
So too God’s love.
That was the flavor and lasting feeling of my lesson at the Holy Sepulchre: Love. We are each completely and utterly precious to God. Loved wholly and completely. God’s love cannot be divided or diminished.
This calls a responsibility out of us, then. To love and care for ourselves as God’s cherished children…yes. But also, to treat others – at work, in line at the supermarket, in traffic, at home – with the same cherished regard showered on us so graciously by our God.