The other night I was talking with my cousin and his wife.
Silently considering the fact that we’re nearing that fork in the road where what we want to be “when we grow up” will either become a part of who we are, or will fall to the wayside as an encrusted what-could-have-been.
Somehow in the jumble of themes, we crossed the subject of our extended family. My cousin-in-law just laughed and said, “Isn’t it crazy how your side of the family doesn’t have one of those aunts or uncles or cousins who flew off the tracks at one point and never quite made it back?”
Everybody has one of those in the family, right?
I mused, “Seeing that of all 29 cousins only 5 of us are over the age of 18, maybe that wayward one is still in the works.” She countered, “but even if someone wandered off and decided that the Christian way of life wasn’t for them, your (and by “your” she obviously meant “our,” because she’s a part of us now) family would love them unconditionally anyway.”
That thought struck home for me as she continued, “When I was a kid, my parents had this list of rules… and if you didn’t want to keep them, you could find somewhere else to live.”
How blessed am I to have both an immediate and extended family who love me for who I am and not for what I’ve done? I have a place. A place where past mistakes will never define me. I have somewhere I know I’ll always belong. Somewhere safe, where I can just be me. Somewhere where just being me is enough.
Ram Dass said, “Unconditional love really exists in each of us. It’s a part of our deep inner being. It is not so much an active emotion as a state of being. It’s not ‘I love you’ for this or that reason, not ‘I love you if you love me.’ It’s love for no reason. Love without an object.”
For my family, and for all of us, that love is innate. It’s a part of us because it’s a part of Him.
And it’s that same foundation of reasonless love and support that has molded me into who I am.
There’s a plaque in my mother’s kitchen that reads, “Having some place to go is HOME. Having someone to love is FAMILY. Having both is a BLESSING.”
That blessing is empowering.
Especially now, as I head off to college with the weight of “who I’m supposed to be” riding on my shoulders.
I’m grateful for those who have learned to love me like that. And I’m grateful that they’re teaching me how to love others that way.
The way that He does.