Before I become elderly myself, I must help my children to understand that my love for them does not depend upon my ability to perform acts of service for them. I have not understood this truth in my interactions with my mother.
"If you love me, then you will 'do' for me." That’s been my heart belief in relation to my mother; that her acts of service for me were one and the same with her love for me. Many of the battles I've fought with resentment toward Mom have come because of my difficulty accepting her inability to support me as she used to do; with gifts and acts of service. Resentment told me that her continued adoring looks and loving words have to do with her dependence on me; but in my heart I have really known this is not true. Mom loves me deeply and dependably. She doesn’t do one thing to help me with the burdens I carry—no housework, or cooking, or help with any of my responsibilities, in fact I now perform those duties for her. But she does love me. I haven’t been able to receive her love very well apart from her doing things for me. When the acts of service stopped, I stopped feeling loved.
During devotions the Lord directed my mind to this question: "Does your father still love you?"
My father's been dead for twelve years. My answer was quick and a little bit sullen, "My father is asleep in death."
The immediate reply came in the form of another question, "Do you love your children when you are asleep?"
Without hesitation I replied, "Completely and unreservedly."
And then I knew that of course my father, who is at home with Jesus, still loves me. Of course he does. He loved me in life. I never had doubt of this fact. And now that in my perception he is asleep in the silence of death, he is yet very much alive in Christ--of course he loves me still.
Yet I have harbored an ongoing feeling that I am bereaved. My loneliness and grief do not bear the weight of close examination; my father loves me still and my mother also loves me. “Faith, hope, and love abide…” For all eternity this love they have for me will remain. And so in what way do I consider myself to suffer a deficit?
Love often expresses itself through actions, but when no more actions are possible because of illness or death, love yet remains. Love itself is powerful and protective apart from any act of service, and I have been well loved.
Scripture: "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him" (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13).