Tuesday, April 12, 2011

thoughts about love and free will and winning

Our daughter has cerebral palsy. It is mild, milder now than it was when she first came home at 5 years old. Her time in the orphanage had not allowed for much stimulation so her condition was worse than it needed to be. Over the past 2 1/2 years she has made tremendous progress; our word for her is "resilient". But it should be noted that our actions toward her have not always felt like love. She has not always chosen of her own free will to submit to our love. She has screamed, yelled, cried, kicked at times, "STOP!!!!!!" When I am at my best, when I am parenting from the strength of the Holy Spirit, I respond with a calm, loving, steady, "I'll never stop." I haven't and I won't. And so far, I've always won.

Won what? Not always the moment, but the day ... and I pray ... the life. Her heart. Forever. I can't say that has happened yet. I wouldn't dare to. But I believe in it. I hope for it with a hope that is both confident and sure. What I CAN say is that at the end of the day, no matter how hard its been, she's found - of her own free will/desire - in my arms, joyfully soaking up my love, grateful for me as I am for her, the two of us connected. And that's the point, really.

We lived an example of this over the weekend, while taking a walk together. It was a "therapy walk" where I focused on helping her right arm to stay relaxed rather than held tight to her body in a spastic position. The muscles have learned to stay that way because of the CP, but they can un-learn, they can relax. When she is conscious of it, you can say, "Relax your arm sweetie" and she will. She can, though it's not natural for her. I know that walking that way isn't good for her. It's not her best. It is minor, yes, but it will have a lifelong effect on her life. And so, we walked. When her arm would pull up tight I'd gently straighten it, massage the muscles a few seconds, and then let it go. And it would hang naturally, swinging with her gait in a healthy way, for a few seconds. Then, subconsciously, she'd pull it tight again. As I continued to gently correct this, she became agitated with me. The screaming set in, the demanding, "STOP!!"

And that's when I thought about free will and love and winning.

Some argue with me that when a person demands of their own free will to be left alone, Love gives them that. Love leaves them alone. God leaves them alone.

Well, I can only say that while I was walking down the sidewalk of Davidson Saturday a lightbulb blinked on in my brain and, in a very matter of fact way, I realized the answer to that is ... bullshit.


When I'm at my WORST, when I don't have my daughter's best interest at heart, when I am tired or impatient or angry or selfish, I throw my hands in the air and say, "Fine, have it your way. I'm done." And I leave her alone.

But when I'm at my BEST, I say, "Honey, I love you. I'll never stop." I stay with her through the hard moments, right there beside her, till she works through her frustration and gets on the other side where she's enjoying the victory. In this example, we struggled together, but together we also got to the place where her arm was swinging naturally for looooong spans of time. This was a huge win! For her! For me? Sure! Because her good is my good. Her heart is my heart. We are together. We are connected. I can't win at her expense. Winning will ultimately mean winning HER, and all that is good for her.

I'm not trying to prove anything. This is not a theory. It's an observation. And one thing I won't argue with anyone is my own ability to recognize the difference between Spirit and flesh, Love and not-love. Those moments when I live out of flesh ... those do not what show me what God is like. Those are rooted in pride and evil. Those are all about me. It doesn't take a rocket scientist (or a theologian) to figure that out. But those moments when Love pours out free as a river ... I won't allow anyone to call that "not God". No mercy in me is from myself, it is from Him. No desire for others' good is from myself, it is from Him. My flesh wants what self wants, and believe me, she can be a real bitch when she wants what she wants. The difference between flesh and Spirit is plain as day, when the eyes of my heart are open.

Scripture teaches us that "wanting what self wants" is the root of the problem, and that there was a time (as we read in Romans 1) when our Father gave us over to that. But He doesn't leave us there! Heave forbid! Later in Romans 7 we read, "Who will rescue me from this? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!" and in Romans 8 we read that NOTHING will separate us from His Love.


For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(he didn't write the words "sinful prideful stubborn free will" in there exactly but I've got a feeling they're included in the words NOR ANYTHING ELSE IN ALL CREATION)

So... what? Bottom line: we don't know what we want because we're screwed up. Sometimes, when you're screwed up, Love actually hurts. We run from it - tell it to go away. We even nail It to a cross and try to kill It. But at the end of the story (which will be the beginning of the New Story), the cross, in my view, is bigger and stronger than our screwed-up-ness. I believe/hope/have confidence that God says, "I'll never stop" and that He means it. I hope/believe/have confidence that He'll end the day with all His children in His arms, of our own free (as in freed-from-its-screwed-up-ness) will, joyfully soaking up His love, grateful for Him as He is for us, connected.

And that's the point, really...


Richard Beck said...

Hi Michelle,
Thanks for pointing me to this post. It was moving, profound, deep, and inspiring. It may be the best thing I've ever read on the relationship between love and freedom.

If you don't mind, I'd love to post a link to your post later this week.
Grace and peace,

Michelle said...

I don't mind at all.

Philip said...

Wow! Thank you, Michelle. You have very eloquently stated what I long to believe not only about a parent's love for his children, but God's love for all of us. We are always the pursued. "NOTHING" can separate us from His love, and His love is not passive. Thanks again.

Frank said...

Very profound. Thank you for sharing.
God be with you and your family.

Lynne said...

Thank you for this. Profound. Beautiful. And true.

Don said...

This is not only one of the best blog posts I have ever read but one of the best things I have ever read, period. Thank you.