What it Means to Love Unconditionally
My wife and I adopted two kids from China 3 months ago.
I am learning about multi-tasking. I am learning what it is like to have a child with a disability. I am learning about myself and how impatient and selfish I can be.
But most importantly, I am learning about love.
When we picked our kids up we had a brief moment to ask questions about them. For our daughter, the person that dropped her off was the orphanage director. She gave the impression that she knew our daughter, but her answers left me doubting otherwise.
What does she like to eat?
She eats everything. (Definitely not true and obvious to us immediately.)
Does she takes naps?
Yes, in the afternoons. (She hates naps.)
Is she potty trained? Does she tell you when she has to go to the bathroom? What does she say if she needs to go?
Yes. Yes. Chinese words we didn’t understand.
The Games We Play
Food we figured out. We ate at buffets and let her pick out what she liked. Interestingly she loves fruits and vegetables. She will say no to a brownie and yes to broccoli.
We stopped asking her to take a nap after a few days. She would cry. And cry. And cry. She was exhausted, but still refused to take a nap. No problem there either. We just put her to bed earlier.
The potty was another issue, though. It would become a struggle for at least 6 weeks.
It is common for adopted kids to have issues with incontinence. The psychological effect of being adopted and then moved to a foreign country at the age of 4 is staggering. My daughter’s world was suddenly turned upside down. She lost control of everything.
So we tried to help her as much as we could. We developed an ear for her Chinese words for potty, which was no easy task for us. We would be sitting in the middle of breakfast and she would announce that she had to go. We stopped everything and rushed to take her.
The outcome was was pathetic. She would literally trickle a few drops. I get that little girls go often and very little. But this was something different. I could spit more than she peed.
We would rush back to breakfast and then she would need to pee again. Another trickle.
Going to the potty became a game. A way to control and manipulate her situation.
Then it got worse. Three days later, she stopped telling us all together. If we tried to make her go on a regular basis, she would argue and complain and cry. She would let loose another trickle. And then 5 minutes later pee in her pants.
We wondered if she had a problem. Could she actually tell that she had to go?
She answered the question for us herself. We were sitting in the floor of her room playing. Suddenly she stopped and developed a distant look in her eyes. She looked down at her crotch. Waited 10 seconds. And then proceeded to tell me she had dirtied her britches.
Right there. In her pants. In front of me. With the toilet 20 feet away. Poop.
I was so angry I wanted to spit.
Angry and frustrated I told my wife the story.
“Why does she do this? This time it was clearly on purpose”
“It’s the only thing in her life she can control. She is still trying to figure this new life out. She is trying to decide if we love her.”
“Of course we do. We went to China to get her. We hug her and feed her and take care of her. Can’t she see how much we love her? What do we have to do to prove it?”
“Perhaps that is the question she is asking. How much do you love her? Do you love her even when she poops her pants?”
I was offering my daughter love. But I expected something from her in return. I expected her to go to the bathroom in the toilet.
It didn’t feel like I was asking for much. I was tired of dealing with the crap. Literally.
But it was a condition. When she didn’t fulfill her end of what I felt was the deal, I became upset. My love was contingent upon her behavior.
But true love is unconditional. It does not depend on a response. It is offered and then when the recipient messes their britches, it cleans the mess up in joy. Thankful for the opportunity. And then it keeps on loving.
True love gives, asking nothing in return.
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The potty issues are resolved now. At the time it felt like an eternity, but looking back now it didn’t really take that long at all.
Thankfully, though, the issue lasted long enough for me to see God. For me to see the mess I make in my own britches. Constantly. And to see him gently cleaning up my mess.
Have you ever struggled to offer an unconditional love? Have you been the recipient of such love?
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