Friday, March 9, 2012

Love When It Hurts

Today we're missing a party. And not a perfunctory, surface obligation kind of party.

This is the baby shower, hosted at a fabled, gorgeous home, for my two of my closest friends. Both of whom recently gave birth to little girls after welcoming a half dozen boys between them. It's been on the calendar for nearly two weeks, and our elation at the reason behind the gathering has almost been matched by our fun in planning for the "be sure to wear pink" instruction on the invitation.

You see, one of the wee guests of honor has cystic fibrosis. And two of my children are coughing, complete with runny noses. A routine obstacle, which I attempted to solve by asking for help --- a skill that's new to me and seems to pay dividends when I exercise it. Could we just drop off the small offenders, and continue on with my older girls? My request was granted, in that my friends were willing to babysit so we didn't miss the party. As my favorite mother hen and I clucked to each other over the phone about the details, I felt a cracking pain in my sternum. Not only was I asking her family to accommodate mine, with a fair bit of intrusion, I was asking them to risk their fragile newborn's health so I could have my way.

That's not love, and here is where my juvenile worldview and stubbornness are revealed: I want to love you on my terms. Be there for you. Bring stuff. Make the ickies go away. (Curiously, I don't want anyone else to handle me this way and have felt smothered by such gestures.) It's selfishness.

We might justify this with the refrain that we don't want to disappoint our kids, and I was briefly tempted in that direction when looking at mine this morning. My sweet daughters, who were yet unbathed but circling the house in their party dresses, no doubt hoping they'd get to slip out the door and straight into revelry on behalf of the little babies we love so much. I explained to them that we must sacrifice our desires when they don't match reality. And the reality is that the possibility of passing on an infection is magnified when the vulnerable lungs of another need extra care. We must learn to love on the terms God gives us, and although personal growth is practically guaranteed, the will and the intellect must first be subdued.

In my disappointment, I also made rash and irresponsible promises (wheeee!) about going to the indoor playground, because I couldn't bear to extract such evolved piety from my girls as I'll probably never possess myself. It hurts.

I am so sad today.

From where do we get our working definition of something as vast as love? Mine comes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and it goes like this:

love is wanting the best for the loved

Love is not a feeling, it's a decision, as we often hear. It's also not about comfort or personal fulfillment. As we meditate on Christ's Passion in a special way during Lent, surely we note the absence of comfort and happiness. When we conform ourselves to this vision, even in the teensiest affairs, we have a hope of Heaven.

Lessons in love are made accessible by the joy-filled, suffering people around me. I love Adah Marie too much to add to her family's concerns, and I vow to walk alongside this baby formed in the image of God. Even on the days when love means staying away.

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