I would like to be able to say that love for my children happened all at once, but instead I'm learning what true love really means – and it has nothing to do with feelings.
Sitting on a hot bus three years ago in the middle of tropical China I wondered if God would ever come through for me again. The vines hanging from the trees with rainbow flowers seemed dark and gray because of the sorrow I held in my heart. The heat was penetrating, but my heart was ice.
Just days before, I had been handed a very sick little girl. Her heart had been broken emotionally. Physically she was incredibly weak. In turn, my heart shattered as I was told by my Heavenly Father: You will be her mother.
Me? How could I do this? Her special needs are way too much....my prayers floundered.
How could I love and attach to this person I barely knew? At first I called this bonding, loving attachment a process, but that implies an end. A process means 'a systematic series of actions directed to some end'. Attachment (love) doesn't end, so it's not a process. It's a journey.
My heart melted as I sat beside my newly adopted daughter on that hot bus. I will never come back to China, I thought to myself that day in Guangzhou. I never wanted to step foot on this side of the earth again because my idea of love had been shattered. At the very core of my heartache was the whispered question:
Does God really love me?
If he did, why did he call us to adopt, only to have it be this hard? You see, our daughter struggled with attachment the moment she was handed to us. I expected it. She didn't know us. We were strangers. But I was blindsided by my lack of feelings for her at the beginning.
True love was something I never thought about, before our two adoptive children. (Yes, two – God sent us back to China two years later because he loves me so much and I needed to learn some more lessons.)
Love that is true grows slowly and is so much deeper. Like roots in the ground, it can happen even in the winter season. Trees will grow even in the winter. Their roots reach further into the soil, away from the cold, to where the water and food are hidden in the earth. Even when the days are bleak, love grows because true, real love is not dependent on outward circumstances.
Love that grows slowly and over time is a lasting kind of love. It is a love that comes when we make choices. It's the love that cleans up the mess at 2 am and a love that holds them while they hate and scream and cry. A deeper love is one that says: 'I love you' when the feelings say, 'Nope.' It will last through the ups and downs. It is the kind of love God the Father has for us.
Let me tell you, my love for all of my children is equal. Each child is unique and the way we attach and bond varies, but from my first born, with all the mistakes as a mother, to my last little boy who tests my patience daily, I love them all so very deeply.
I learned that true love is a choice we make daily. And that made all the difference.
Sarah Frazer is a writer, Bible teacher and mother to five children. She blogs at sarahefrazer.com.