If you have ever been woken up by a crying infant for the fourth time in a single night, you understand the concept of sacrificial love.
A friend of mine once offered some sage words about those sleep deprived nights of early motherhood; Those are the times when you have to dig deep. You almost have to go to a different place in your mind and heart. You have to find that place of stillness that will help you carry on knowing this will not last forever and that this is what love looks like right now.
She was so right and I remember conjuring up her words more than once during some long, dark nights when I found myself back in that unique chapter of motherhood with my youngest. I was older than I had been the first two times around and now had two other kids sapping my energy during the day...those nights were hard. Probably some of the hardest I've ever had. There were tears, there were negotiations with God and futile attempts at begging my tiny infant girl to let her mama rest.
And yet, somehow we both made it through. And as much as my flesh was weak I did manage to find the strength to give my baby girl the core truth I wanted to give her in those early weeks and months of her time on earth: That her world is a friendly place with people who will always take care of her. That mommy and daddy can be trusted. That she is loved deeply and unconditionally.
It's what I tried to give all my babies, hoping that somehow those early seeds of love and trust would take root and keep growing through the years, finally bearing fruit just when they need it most.
There have been events swirling around the periphery of our family* lately that have brought my friend's words back to me with a different twist. I've been thinking about how when our children are tiny, so much of the sacrifice we make for love's sake is physical. We overcome our own physical need for sleep, quiet, personal space and independence for the love of this utterly dependent being that has been placed in our care. As they grow we still sacrifice some of those same physical desires but increasingly it becomes a sacrifice of mind and heart.
Because only the most deeply committed heart can be shattered in a million pieces by the child you love and still gather itself back together in order to go to battle on behalf of that very same child.
Only a love prepared to sacrifice itself can look into the eyes of its beloved and say, You have broken my heart and disappointed me more than I thought possible but I am still right here. I will stand with you and fight for you with my very last breath. I love you just because you are you, and you are my child. Nothing you could ever do could change that. I'm still right here.
And I thought of my friend's words and realized that even when you have a kid who towers over you and shaves and drives a car and take girls to dances...it's still the same.
There are times you have to dig deep.
You have to go that place of stillness and calm, however you get there, in order to carry on.
You have to believe this won't last forever.
And you have to know that this is what love looks like right now.
*None of this is a reference to something my own boys have done. But it could be any of us...