Saturday, March 3, 2007

Unconditional Love

Perhaps I should rename my blog to something that has the word "love" in it! I want to share a bit about my background and the event that changed my life forever.

I grew up in a broken home. When I was growing up, that wasn't a term with which I was familiar (broken home). I think that's a good thing, though. As I've gotten older I've seen too many people use terms like that to attempt to remove some of the responsibility from themselves when it comes to the bad decisions they make or the stupid things they do.

My dad left us when I was pretty young. Before he left us, he wasn't around very much. I don't remember him being around too often after I turned about 7 or 8 (I was the oldest of three children). I don't remember ever having the impression that my mom and dad liked one another. They fought, yelled, screamed, cussed, and were physically violent with one another constantly. So when my dad left for good, things were actually better in a sense. However, my mom began to change - she became bitter and depressed. All these years later, she's still bitter and often depressed.

My mom never really knew how to express love. She grew up in the worst of imaginable situations herself. My dad's only expression of love was to send "stuff" to us kids at Christmas. This stopped about 5 or 6 years before he died. I share that portion of my life story to get to this...I never really saw love in action in my home when I was growing up. As a matter of fact, I would say that I didn't really understand how to love.

My understanding of love was perverted. I don't mean that in the way that we tend to understand that word, but in the very real sense. My understanding of love was twisted. I thought that the way you expressed loved was to get things for people. If they loved you, they would get you something. The concept of "unconditional love" was extremely foreign to me. I thought love had to be earned in all cases. I never really got the impression that my folks loved me, and I just assumed that it was my fault.

By the time I entered the adult world, this perverse view of love was all I really understood. In my relationships with the opposite sex I focused on the physical almost exclusively. When I got married, I was woefully unprepared to love my wife the way I needed to. I just didn't get it. In my spiritual life, this non-understanding of love left me struggling to come to terms with what God's love was all about. It was a constant battle. I saw friends who seemed to be flourishing in their relationship with God, but I just felt like I was dying spiritually. I would have some wicked thought, or skip "daily devotions", or any number of other things, and then have the thought that I'd caused God to hate me. So my spiritual life was nothing more than a struggle to "earn" God's love. But in 1998 something happened that began to change all that...

Henry Ellis Murphree, III (Trey) was born to my wife and I on May 21, 1998. The moment he was born I looked at this tiny, defenseless, mess of a child...and I loved him. I wanted to grab him, hold him, hug him, protect him. I would have killed to protect him and I would have died to do the same. All these thoughts and emotions flooded through me in the brief moment from the time I first saw him to the time he began crying. It was amazing! It was the first time I 'd ever loved something or somebody who hadn't done something for me. He didn't know me, he had never seen me, he didn't love me, but I loved him...unconditionally!

When I went home that night I couldn't hardly sleep. I began to reflect on what I was feeling about my new son. The thought occurred to me that he was really quite ugly when I first laid eyes on him, yet I couldn't stop staring at him with that fatherly love that would make any sacrifice necessary to protect him. I began to wonder if this is how my Heavenly Father looked at me - so pathetic, helpless, and ugly in my humanity - yet He loved me so much that He would die to save me.

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