You often hear stories about a parenting meeting their adopted child and it’s love at first sight. It happens. But, more often are the stories you don’t hear. The love stories that are won after many battles, the love that grows slowly, day after day watering with no noticeable progress.
These stories are so much more complicated. They’re not shiny and fairy-tale like. They are the stories of tears and sleepless nights. Prayers and painful questions. Recognizing the hurt of a young child. And the deep wounds and the inadequacies of an adult.
But, while I hesitate to share it, Reed and I are one of those stories. Reed came into our relationship hurting. Cognizant that I was another woman in his life. Who was I? How long would I stay? For me, it was more like he ripped my stitches out. As some people would say, he pushed my buttons. Opening up old hurts and frustrations. Creating new ones.
Honestly, we seemed incompatible at first. Most of the time, we drove each other nuts. I wanted so badly to control him and manage him, not considering his strong willed personality. Only made worse by people who told me that I need to win and make sure he didn’t think he was the boss.
He was never interested in me. He would pick anyone else’s attention and affection over me. Even if we were alone, he would just ignore me, if he had everything he needed. We would both celebrate the moment Aaron got home, giving us relief from our long days together.
For months, we just plugged on. I did my best to fake it. Meet all of his needs, hug him and kiss him. We’d play together and I’d walk away frustrated and exhausted. Other people would tell me how wonderful they thought he was, only twisting the knife a bit more. A reminder that it was just our relationship that was broken. Still, we plugged on.
The milestones were tiny.
One day, he drew me a picture.
Another day, he’d grab my hand out of nowhere, holding it as we went on our walk.
He’d do silly things just to make me laugh.
When he broke his leg, he let me hold him when his leg hurt late at night and we watched movies together.
One day, a friend pointed out how nervous he looked when I walked out of his view.
I woke up one day and realized I wasn’t faking it anymore. I hadn’t been for awhile. My love for him was real. I was not longer acting out love because I knew we both needed it. I was being affectionate, and doing things for him and spending time with him because I loved him.
Now, it seems like he draws me at least two pictures a day. He asks me to play with him all the time. We love to read books together. I enjoy poking him whenever we pass each other. And, it’s not uncommon that he grabs my hand or wraps his arm around my leg when we go on walks. Sometimes, I just like to sneak up and tell him I love him, which makes him run away in embarrassment… smiling.
We still have plenty of moments where he drives me nuts, or he gets mad at me, because he got in trouble. Plenty. He’s 5. We’re both human.
Recently, I picked him up out of the car and swung him around. As I reached to help Lena, he wrapped his arm around my leg unexpectedly. “What’s that for?” ” ‘Cause I love you.”
I wrote this for myself, as a reminder of how far we’ve come. And to share with my friends, who are at the beginning of their complicated love stories.
Reflecting on this whole process, as I’ve read and edited this post over several days, I realized it doesn’t end here. I am not done with this sort of difficult love. A reminder that I especially need to love people in my life who seem incompatible with me, who seem impossible to love and who I think may never love me back.
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
“Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-8