I did my best to fight them back. I really did.
Yet there they were, streaming down my face like a flash flood unexpectedly breaching a dike, blurring my view as I clumsily placed the final piece of scotch tape on my son’s Christmas present. How, I asked myself, can I love someone so much who chooses not to love me back?
Exactly when the rift began is impossible to say. Why it happened at all is an even tougher question to answer. The only thing I can state with any certainty is that 15 years of estrangement is a long time to endure this emotional separation from my firstborn son.
I have learned that estrangement can take on many forms. The angry teenage years gave way to excruciating years of silence, then slowly evolved into its current manifestation: intermittent, brief and meaningless communication. Emotional expressions have ranged from overt acts of rejection to the more passive aggressive refusal to acknowledge my presence in a roomful of people, to the harshest indictment of all ― simply building a life in which I am given no part to play; as if to say “You are of no consequence to me”.
My own emotions have run the gamut as well; from paralyzing grief to desperation and even anger. As I finished taping the box of presents to ship to him, I found myself resisting the slide to the ‘pay back’ end of the spectrum. I thought, If only for one moment he could feel the pain of rejection he has inflicted on me. He doesn’t deserve my love. Why should I keep reaching out to someone who refuses to love me? Why do I even care at this point?
Only seconds into that downward spiral and the flood gates opened. As the tears flowed, the truth of my love for him came down in torrents. He is my son. Even if my love for him is unrequited, I will love him until my very last breath.
Unrequited Love —how ironic that particular phrase should come into my mind in this season. Isn’t that, after all, one of the honest truths of Christmas? What must God feel when He surveys His creation? We are a planet of billions of human beings. Yet each of us is known intimately by Him, right down to the number of hairs on our head.
Every one of us is the object of extravagant, pure, unconditional love. And the majority of us will never accept or return it. Among all the other meanings of Christmas is the bitter-sweet story of unrequited love. Despite knowing in advance that He would be “despised and rejected of men”, Jesus came and died to offer us eternal love and eternal life.
Thank you, my precious Savior for choosing to love me. You are my eternal JOY!