It was a cheerful moment as sunlight streamed through the windows, one that didn't tell the whole story of how dark shadows have fallen on the oldest mother's mind and how age is crippling her body. Of the struggles and private pain her daughter has gone through as the roles have reversed over the past several years. Or how the oldest mother now often refers to her daughter as "Momma."
It's an interesting thing, this matter of love. When it is lived out it can be painful. Love doesn't just push wheelchairs and strollers down hallways, it has to push through the times in this life that seem unbearable. The times when you honestly aren't sure if you are going to make it. When you don't feel like you can do it.
Love, I have learned, often has to show up before the feelings do.
I am often concerned for what our world thinks love is. In our fame and celebrity obsessed culture, I fear we have begun to think the red carpet has to be rolled out for us for every single thing we do. That love has everything to do with "feeling" elevated, worthy, attractive, the center of attention, or whatever we desire to feel rather than being something we actually do. That love supposedly has something to do with self-centered quotes and lists that are posted and reposted all over social media, instead of about laying down self for someone else.
Let me tell you, the real stuff of life and love is not found on the red carpet or internet memes. It is found in the corridors of rehab facilities and hallways of homes. It is found in the changing of diapers and Depends, in sickness and health, in adversity and prosperity, in families gathered around dinner tables and hospital beds, in laughing until you cry and laughing because if not, you are going to cry.
It is being willing to do hard and holy and humble and habitual things.
Being willing to do the mundane.
And eventually finding joy in it ~ or choosing joy when you can't seem to find it!
Love is generations embracing the beauty of life, but staying together in the pain of life.
Wrinkled hands holding onto fresh, new skin.
Husbands and wives holding onto each other in good times and bad.
Parents holding tight then gradually letting children go.
And one day children doing the same with parents.
This cycle of life, what a miraculous, beautiful, painful, amazing thing it is. The collision of beauty and pain is what makes it all so very real. We can't love without laughing and we can't love without hurting.
But in laughter and pain and all the in between, we can show up. Even if we have to show up before our feelings arrive. Choose love. Do hard things. Lay ourselves down for someone else. And not need credit for every single thing we do. We can be willing to do the thankless work that needs to be done because we know this life, this unhemmed, complicated, beautiful life, is temporary. So we must serve with eternity in mind. And we must try to love like the Creator and Sustainer of our souls. Like the Author of our lives.
The One who really knows of love as sacrifice.
That daughter, she washes her mother's feet on Saturdays. She has done this on good days, and she has done this on the hard days when she didn't really feel like it because the challenges of a confused mind have caused frustration or conflict. Knelt low and washed those bent and arthritic feet simply so they will be clean and fresh, not knowing that all the while her own daughter has been watching and seeing glimpses of Jesus in this. She has felt guilty on the hard days, not realizing she has taught her daughter an even greater lesson; that love perseveres, it pushes past feelings to action and serving, even bending low when many would walk away.
Now her daughter will teach this to her daughters. And pray they teach this to their daughters.
So future generations will continue to walk down the halls of life together.