Lovingly Parenting Anyone Who Needs It
Trusting God, our primary parent, who simply, purely, wholly loves every single one of His children, we are able to help any child of God in times of great need.
Categories: Family, Fatherhood, Fatherhood/Motherhood, Jesus' Commandment - To Love as He Loved, Love, Motherhood
“I can’t do this. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m not strong enough. I can’t sleep. I’m trembling, I’m so afraid. There’s so much to do, I don’t know where to begin. I can’t live without him (or her).”
The steady stream of statements rang in my ears, and ended with the epitome of self-pity: “You don’t understand….” All of it sounded like a frightened child to whom a seasoned parent would instantly respond with comfort and reassurance, but not alarm.
In this instance, however, she called me in the middle of the night; we were separated by an ocean, and suddenly bound together by a gripping fear of the unknown. She was sitting beside her husband, my father, who lay coma-induced in a hospital 3,500 miles away from home. I felt her anguish and understood her distress, but I didn’t know what to say. I felt my own fear rising, and had to squelch that first. The bigger issue was the cavernous wavelengths between us: She reacts; I respond. She declares; I reason. She decides; I listen-and-follow. And, in the shadows of this late-night call, decades of ugly family history jeered at me.
Faster than I could reason away my feelings, I saw with stark clarity: God. Is. Love. That is all – which makes it enough. If all is Love, then there is no bitterness and no gulf between people. If all is Love, then we cannot remain in a state of desperation and despair. If all is Love, then we only have the capacity to love – unconditionally and without end.
Loving unconditionally and without end is what I call pure parenting. We might not like our children’s behavior or habits at times, but we keep loving them because we know who they really are – we know their true identities as sons and daughters of God. My stepmother is one of God’s children, and so I can see her as she really is, and I can love her.
That’s what came to me as I listened to her laments. She had every right to feel the way she was feeling. Clearly, she yearned to be comforted and reassured. Just as clearly, the laments needed to be stopped in their tracks. In other words, she needed to feel loved, and she needed help to change the behavior. That’s when I saw her as a child crying out for her parent. And in that moment, my thought of her changed. Personality and history simply vanished, like wispy fog. I caught a glimpse of the purity of Love, and without any effort whatsoever, I found myself purely loving her.
I listened attentively. Every statement she uttered demanded me to love more diligently, more wholeheartedly, and more actively than I ever had before. There was a desperate need for immediate answers, yet I couldn’t fly to her side fast enough to do anything humanly. But I could instantly respond to the feelings behind her words. Each time she drew a breath, I spoke, one sentence at a time, calmly and tenderly, but forcefully and unrelentingly:
“You are not alone. You are completely surrounded and supported by Love. All of us are loving you right now and through this whole experience, no matter how long it goes on. You have the strength and the stamina to stay the course. I’ve seen you in action in moments like this before – when you’ve had to be strong and think clearly to support Dad or other members of the family in very trying times. I know you, and I know what you’re capable of, and you can do this. The answers are coming clearer every day. We need to wait patiently for them – that’s how we’ll be ready for them. You and Dad are both safe and beautifully cared for. You are in a decent hotel right nearby and he is in one of the best medical facilities in the world. It’s clean, and the doctors speak English, and the care is excellent. You couldn’t be in better hands, and that’s something to be hugely grateful for. Dad loves you as much as you love him. He needs you to love him without being afraid that you’ll lose him. You can do that for him - you can simply love him.”
It was amazing to hear the change, the softening, in her voice—to hear more and more moments of silence rather than the endless stream of worry and stress. It felt like we were in Love, right in the midst of it, together, connected.
My stepmother is not a religious person. She’s quick to declare that she believes in God “in my own way, and it’s not in a church.” So, as hard as I listened to hear her needs, I was listening for God’s ideas in my heart. The most natural response to any crisis with my children is to pray. Immediately, Bible verses and phrases from hymns and other spiritual texts flood to mind. And they came pouring in that night. But I held off from repeating them aloud. I knew they would be a turnoff rather than a comfort. But I also knew the import of those words: “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb 4:12). Comforting words were coming to me, and they could be transformed into language that would reach and comfort her, too.
My constant prayer is from Psalms, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer” Psalms 19:14). Invariably, without exception, that prayer is answered in just the right way. That night the right words floated out of my mouth and across the ocean to the hotel room where my stepmother sat trembling, convinced there was no help, no comfort, no rest, and from the looks of it, no future worth living.
Several more phone calls followed that first long one. Each time, we addressed a different need until she was calm, steady, and hopeful again – until she was herself, God’s daughter. Just as I am. The primary Parent, of course, is our Father-Mother, God, who simply, purely, wholly loves every single one of His children. God holds us on the wings of love, safe between his shoulders…. He restores our soul and leads us through the valley of the shadow of death, where we fear no evil because He is always with us. Always.
That night, I learned another lesson about trusting our mutual Parent. I also learned a lesson in how to really love: to let go of history and personality conflict so that I could see the real person in absolute clarity. That’s how I was able to truly help her. That’s how we are able to help any child of God in times of great need.