Love is a Choice

Sometimes love hurts. You love with no return. You love and the results are not what you expected. You love and it turns to disinterest. Love is tricky on all levels.

There is a love that is permanent and perfect. Only one. That is the love I found in God, because of Jesus Christ. I knew from the beginning that loving the way He does would be a very long and trying process. Being loved was a very rare thing in my life, so giving it would seemingly be impossible. If you haven’t experienced it, how do you know what it looks like?

But I did it anyway because when God puts His DNA into us and we receive His spirit in us by accepting Jesus into our lives, you get this inkling that the love you have received should be given away.

I have given my love away… a LOT! Love comes with choice and I chose to love some real  difficult characters and my love didn’t always make a big difference. I got hurt.

The love I had for my children, however, was completely different. Mother love is unique and profound. It can put you through experiences and circumstances you would have never chosen but for the fact that these were your children and your love was sacrificial.

Then they get to choose to love you back. Love is pretty simple when they are young and need you to survive. It is very complicated when they get old enough to decide. Even children have to choose to love their parents. Some don’t. And they leave.

I have a two year relationship with a cat I named Amber. (yes, I will connect the dots.)Amber has been a challenge for the whole two years. She is skittish, and probably a bit bipolar. She claws more than any cat ever, and my furniture reflects the results. She has a hard time finding the potty and in the last few months decided she would rather pee on the floor. Sprays, cleaners, lavender cat collars, room purifiers… nothing has helped. I hit the end yesterday. Right next to two litter boxes on the floor, with two different kinds of litters for the little princess, she started to squat to pee on the carpet…again. I shooed her out, and she ran. Only to find a carpet in the laundry room to pee on instead.

I lost it. I realized two years of trying to do the right thing for this cat to feel comfortable in this home and simply pee in the proper place had given me nothing but heartache. Her occasional lap visits were not enough of a reward for putting up with the way she was ruining my home.  The living room furniture is covered in blankets to keep her from clawing the new slipcovers I bought to protect the couch. Black tufts of fur are all over the place, as are pieces of carpet from the constant knitting she did. I couldn’t have visitors anymore. I was done.

In my anger, I opened the front door, making it easy for her to leave. She had a taste of the outdoors a year ago and has been punishing me ever since for wanting her to be an indoor cat. (We have coyotes in the back yard… it was for her own good.)

An hour later I went out and closed the door, as I remembered her last bout with outside had brought her home covered in fleas. But I was too late. Apparently she was gone, and I have not heard a meow since. It is peacefully quiet here, and a bit daunting. Was this cat’s identity always to be an outdoor cat and I had tried to make her live by my desires for her to be an indoor cat when it was against her personality?

I have just finished my book about identity, so I was getting a clear picture of what it looks like to try to make someone be who you need them to be, when it is nothing like they want to be, no matter how great the perks.

That is what happened with my daughter. She claims, and possibly rightly so, that I tried to get her to be what I wanted and never let her be herself. She resisted, rejected and ran. There is more to the story, but suffice it to say, she is still running and demanding that i let her be who she is, on her terms. She is now thirty-five years old, and has a real hard time committing to relationships, any of them. And definitely to me.

I have made endless attempts to woo her back. I have done everything to heal myself from controlling anything and want some semblance of a relationship with her. But she wants to be free. Like Amber, she wants relationship on her terms. And my job is to seemingly just be there when she needs a lapsit, and otherwise, just let her be free.

It is easier with a cat, I can tell you. I was not emotionally attached to Amber, there was no way to be when she was constantly causing my life to be in disarray. Before I opened that door, I was planning to call the N.O.A.H shelter and give her back. I was truly done.

This is my daughter. I don’t want to release her to her freedom, with the realization that she may NEVER choose to come back home. It reminds me of the story of the Prodigal Son. I had always seen her as my prodigal. But the prodigal son came home because he realized he had left something far more precious than what the world offered. He was willing to be a field worker if it meant returning to home.

I will welcome her with open arms should that ever happen. In the meantime, how do you let go ever seeing your youngest daughter again? How do you navigate giving someone freedom that you love and want a relationship with, an authentic mutual relationship?

I am not interested in tolerable recovery for this relationship. Like those family gatherings where she won’t look at me and I have to pull more than a few words of discourse from her mouth. Do you just stay in the corner and ignore her presence, when you so want to just go up and give her a big hug and love on her,  even though uninvited and unrequited?

Love is a choice. I choose to keep loving her. I may or may not show up at those family gatherings should she be there. I get to choose also whether I want to endure the pain of rejection that occurs every time I see her. So love for now may look like NO, even if my heart is hoping… maybe this time it will be different. 

I will wait for the prodigal to return home, really return, with open arms and a contrite, repentant heart. In the waiting, I will pray, pray that I will remain soft-hearted; that I can keep my heart from turning to stone towards her. Yes, love hurts. And only with a heart in a constant state of forgiveness can it stay soft.

And Amber, unrepentant, remains free.