Fostering Love

Brotherly Love
On love:

1 Corinthians 13: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

When the boys came to live with us, they had a clear distinction between their past and their present. They called their birth mom, “Mom” and they called us “Craig” and “Megan.” This was fine with us – we gave them the choice. When we meet new kids we explain that the six of us are a family and that the girls call us Mom and Dad. We then tell them they can call us that if they want to or they can call us by our regular names. E3 called us Mom and Dad from the get-go. J5 only ever called us Craig and Megan. These boys have been with us 6+ weeks now and if our relationship were a Facebook status, you could say “It’s complicated.”

They chose to call us by our given names for the first two weeks. The middle two weeks they began alternating our names with “Mom and Dad” by their own choosing (or mistake?). For the past two weeks, we’ve been exclusively Mom and Dad (or Mommy and Daddy). I tell you, there is part of me that is glad they are feeling comfortable around us and using comfort-names with us. But there is another part of me that simply grieves over the transition because they don’t know how temporary this is really going to be. In their world, this is their new home. And I can’t and won’t tell them that in another few weeks (months?) their world will be rocked yet again and they will go to live with a long-term family. Don’t misunderstand: I want them to go live with a *good* long-term family and I want them to bond with them and live and love. But little boys who get bounced around as much as these guys have to learn to cope and survive. At three and four years of age.

I hug these guys several times a day. I say, “Did you know we really need hugs from each other?” They giggle and show me the biggest hugs they have. They know how to squeeze tight. I ask them if they know I love them. They nod their heads. I say it again, “R3, I love you.” He smiles, but says nothing. “A4, I love you.” He smiles and says, “Okay.”

That’s his response every time. I say, “I love you,” and he says, “Okay.”

And as I try my hardest to teach them what love means in the context of a family, it is this “okay” response that is teaching me.

It’s so easy to push people away who want to express their love because I’m not in any shape to return it at that moment. But I’m not sure that’s the way love really works. We love others not based on what they can do for us, but simply because of who they are. We love because God first loved us. We love without expecting anything in return. Or we should.

And I can sometimes find myself in one of two positions when I’m offered love from someone else: I either pretend to return it, “I love you, too,” or I just push it away.

A4 is showing me the third way here. Sure, the preference would be to honestly love back, but that’s not always possible all of the time. He could laugh at me for telling him I love him because he thinks I don’t really mean it. He could tell me he loves me too, but I’d know he doesn’t really mean it. Instead, he hears me say it and he accepts it with a simple, “okay,” and life goes on. And maybe it is his simple acceptance that propels me to try to love him (them) in a more complete way: by being patient and kind, not envying or boasting, not being arrogant or rude, not insisting on my own way. Not being irritable or resentful, not rejoicing with the wrong, but rejoicing with the truth. Bearing all things. Believing all things. Hoping all things. Enduring all things. Never ending.