This is a guest post by Mary Jo Pedersen.
When I was four years old and sitting in my Grandma’s rocker, I thought I knew what love was. She lived next door, and, when I got into trouble at home, I would run there, and she would give me homemade bread and rock me in her generous lap.
When I was 12, I was sure that love must be that feeling I got when I looked at Victor Sawsicki across the playground and noticed that he was looking back at me and smiling. My discovery of what love is has continued to this day, each experience and every relationship making new deposits in my life’s bank account. But nothing has taught me more about love than the experience of raising my own family. Families are the unsung heroes of love—love freely given, shared, nurtured, rejected, renewed, and sometimes lost forever.
Webster’s dictionary’s list of definitions for love begins with “affection and attachment” and ends with “unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.” My husband of 42 years and our children have taught me what that means.
Family love has hands and feet. It has the patience to potty train and re-train a two-year-old; it possesses the kindness to bring you a spoon of cough medicine in the middle of the night. This love is not jealous when others have a nicer house or car. Love doesn’t boast about how hard it works to make the house payment. It is not rude in telling you that your new haircut looks like a lawnmower job. Love does not store up grievances but forgives the same mistakes over and over again. Love at home is ready to make allowances for your foibles; it trusts that you will pass that course despite your current grades; it hopes that you will get tired of living in a pigsty of a bedroom; and it endures the long and painful adjustment to a child’s death or divorce.
Read St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13, verses 4–13, and it’s apparent that when we experience love in family, we are experiencing the love of Jesus Christ. We may not readily recognize or be open to what God is doing in us as we go about our everyday duties at home. But we know for sure that whenever charity and love prevail, God dwells there and that those who live in love, live in God (1 John 4:16).
Mary Jo Pedersen is the author of For Better, for Worse, for God: Exploring the Holy Mystery of Marriage.