April 23, 2010

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Unconditional love means love in every season

Cynthia DewesIn spring, we tend to think about new life, the quickening of natural rhythms, renewed energy and hope.

Of course, Easter is all about this. God has thoughtfully provided us with the natural seasons of the year to help us maneuver our life journey, and the Church follows this pattern in her calendar.

Thus, we have the glory of summer in Ordinary Time, the reflective Advent of autumn and the Lenten penance of winter.

But it is spring that we often love best. It provides empirical evidence of God’s promise at Easter because it illustrates eternal life.

We see mama birds building nests for their anticipated chicks, and little spotted fawns peeking around their cautious moms at the edge of the woods. Grass, trees and shrubs are greening, flowers are blooming, and the days lengthen with more and more sunshine.

Now, not all human babies are born in the spring, but they might as well be because babies personify Easter’s hope. They are the true innocents starting life with no personal sin, the time when every good thing is a possibility. As Jesus said, we must all become like little children.

This is not to say that babies are perfect role models. Someone once said that if babies weren’t so darn cute we would do away with them soon after birth. That’s because they are often tiring, annoying and unreasonable, not to mention helpless and needy. We should have babies during the spring of our lives because raising them will take a lot of energy, if not increasing grace.

The relationship between parent and child is a reflection of our relationship with God the Father. It offers real joy and fulfillment because it is based on

unconditional love. Part of the maternal need to nurture and the paternal need to protect are apparently built in to our biology, but the rest of parenting comes from personal effort. We will to love.

Lately, we have been treated to an avalanche of memoirs written by people from dysfunctional families. Their parents were alcoholic or abusive or absent. They were given no affection or respect or were relocated so often that they couldn’t develop friendships. Their educations were spotty, and stability was not part of their childhood experience.

Even when their pain was caused directly or intentionally by their parents, these writers loved them. As we know from horrendous news stories almost every day, children love their parents no matter what. They always hope for a better future. If I do this, they will love me. If I’m quiet, they won’t punish me. Children always try to love us, apparently without qualifications.

As children grow to adulthood, they seem to lose this natural ability to love without question. They begin to suspect ulterior motives or power plays among those around them. They are cautious before they allow themselves to trust, and cynical if trust fails. They find it hard to forgive and even harder to forget real or imagined slights. They are in a hunker-down mode rather than the generous sharing of love.

Beyond feeding, clothing, housing and educating our kids, the will to love them includes many things that don’t cost money or even much time. Really listening to what they tell us or learning about their interests or merely sitting with them during their favorite TV shows all say, “I love you.”

Spring brings longer days, feelings of optimism and, somehow, more incentive to love our kids and others unconditionally. Yay, spring!

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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