Love Unconditionally

Steph Montgomery

Throughout my life love has meant different things to me. When I was a teenager I used to daydream a good portion of my days about the perfect man that would sweep me off of my feet, like all the romantic movies I would spend time watching. I would get pulled into how the man would hang on the woman’s every word and whisk her away and whisper to her all the things she longed to hear. Like all the Nicholas Sparks’ books I read.  Did you do this? I can’t seriously be the only one, right?! C’mon, who’s with me…

I remember when I finally did meet my prince charming, Jason, the perfect one for me. I recall the first time our parents met, and we had been dating for about five months. We were both young, smitten, and wildly in love at the ripe old age of nineteen!  We weren’t too young, but still lacking many life experiences and the reality of what real love was.  I specifically remember telling our parents that night sitting at a small, round quaint table at Gianino’s, that we wanted to spend our lives together and get married. I also remember them telling us that life is hard, and not everything will always feel like what we were feeling at that time. How dare they tell us what we would feel or become! At least that’s what we thought… little did we know that they were so right, though. A relationship, a marriage, it’s HARD WORK, and it’s never easy. I have periodically thought about that moment sitting there with our parents, literally being so naive at the way I envisioned love. I seriously thought at that time love would be like all the movies I’d spent my time watching, but that’s not what TRUE love is…   

Do you have a person or thing you envision when you hear the word “love?”  For me it’s, JESUS. He is the only human who was man and God, but the irony is that He never used His “God-ness,” to gain attention and love from others.  He actually humbled himself, so much so that He became a servant, and then He laid down His life for sinners… people who didn’t even love Him in return. I mean, can you even imagine dying for someone that hated you?! To me, that is the ultimate love. Jesus spoke this parable below as a beautiful description of His love for His people.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father- and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”  
John 10:14-16 (NIV) 

Jesus chose suffering so that, in the moments of our lives when we suffer, He can intercede for us.  Keep in mind, He has been there and He knows what it’s like. He chose to wander and not have a place to call home. He chose the poor in spirit. He chose the sinners. He chose the destitute. He chose the prostitute. He chose the least likely. Why? Because He LOVES us that much! He came for the sick, not just the healthy. Aren’t we all sick with sin to some degree? Aren’t we all in need of being saved and loved like that? The answer to that question is a resounding- YES!! Christ’s Love gives us a hope that this world isn’t all there is. His love reminds us that even though we’re broken because of our sin, through forgiveness… we are chosen, we are redeemed, we are adopted, we are  blameless, we are included, and we are marked in Him with a seal. I don’t think there could be a greater love than this. Once we understand this great love that God has for us, His people, then the love we pour out in other relationships in our life not only work, but flourish.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8 (NIV)

God’s love surrounds us all the time. If we look and listen closely, God shows His love for us around every corner too. About a year ago I was watching America’s Got Talent, and a man came on to sing a song. If you’re unfamiliar with the show, they always do a backstory on each performer that makes it to the next round.  This particular man’s story really touched my heart, as it did many other Americans. His name is Micheal, he works as a nurse, is married, and has an older daughter. He proceeded to say that he and his wife adopted 5 sons (I know, right?!)  He explained that their biological daughter was lonely and wanted a sibling. She told her parents she kept having a dream about having three siblings that were her brothers, and one brother was always in danger in her dream. Their daughter had this recurring dream for over two years. Finally Michael and his wife, Ivy,  decided to take notice of the recurring dream and do something about it.  So they went through the process of becoming foster parents with the hope of adopting.

The first call this family received was a call in regards to three brothers that needed a home. The thing is… no one in the foster care system could handle these boys, as they were raised in a meth lab and lived in the woods… literally IN THE WOODS! Despite this information, Michael and his family took these three boys in. But wait, that’s not it! They thought their family was complete with six, but then he got a call about a young boy that had many medical issues, including cerebral palsy.  Before Michael and Ivy said yes to fostering this little guy, the social workers went into all the setbacks that this boy has had; describing how difficult it would be to care for him. This young boy had been born normal, but at the age of one, he was shaken by his caregiver and thrown into a wall, causing him extensive brain trauma.  After the social workers painted a very grim picture of this boy’s life, Michael and Ivy still answered yes to welcoming him into their home! However, all of MANY therapy sessions weighed on Michael and Ivy’s mind.  Michael stated that caring for this little one was beginning to seem like more than his family could handle.

Michael was extremely perplexed as to what he should do. He was on his way to an appointment and he began praying to God, asking for a sign to show if he should be this boy’s father.  Michael said as he was driving he looked up and there in front of his very eyes was a giant billboard of a father pushing his son across a finish line who had cerebral palsy and the boy was in a wheelchair. I mean can you even imagine this?! He said, “God, you actually gave me a literal sign!” So in that moment he knew that he was his father. This son of theirs that they adopted has broken all the milestones that the social workers said he would never be able to reach. Okay, so you’d think the story ends here, right? There’s no way there could be more…

Well, a  few months later his wife, Ivy, had a dream about an African American boy. She said she woke up and said, “Lord, if this is my son, bring him to us.” So, they got another call from the foster care agency about an African American boy that was homeless and living on the streets.  Of course they opened their house to him as well and in the America’s Got Talent interview, Michael described him as being “the cherry on top!” He also went on to say,

“Even if you are completely disabled and broken, you are still my son. I believe that’s who our Father God is. He’s not afraid to get in the dirt with us. As a matter of fact, He sent His son to be just like us, to experience all our same issues and healing us and setting us free.” 

When I watch the interview from their story, it brings me to tears each time. I cannot even fathom a greater unconditional love than opening your home to children that are unloved. Isn’t this essentially what God does for us? He loves us unconditionally and offers a home with Him in eternity. He calls us out of the dark and brings us into the light of forgiveness, redemption, freedom, and salvation. Michael and His wife, Ivy, are examples of the love that Christ calls us to be, but not just for our spouses. Not just for our kids. Not just for our family. And not just for our friends. He calls us to love the unloved, the misfits, the sinners, the broken, the poor, and the lost. Not an easy thing to do – am I right? How are you doing with this? I know for me and my family, God is calling us to see the bigger picture, and I know that I truly want to see the entire landscape…

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NIV)

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