Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Risk of Loving - A Risk Worth Taking

A good friend shared this quote with me and it resonated in my heart as being deeply true.
"Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving… if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking." - Henri Nouwen
I had a taste of this love that suffers, when my Grandpa went to Heaven back in 1986. I remember crying, crying, and crying. He was my ketchup on ham sandwiches, watch him make a bullet, tell me a story, get you with a fly swatter grandpa.  I wish we could have known each other longer.  I loved him as much as my nearly 9 year old heart could and his loss was felt in salty tears and dreams where he would still sit and talk with me.  He was the first person whose leaving broke my little spirit, where I saw a picture of loving and suffering mingled. The risk of loving is always worth taking.

This is one of my favorite pieces of art Little J made at pre-school this past year. Our Little J has her own story of risk and love with as many ups and downs as a roller coaster!  Thank you, Jesus, that we took the risks!!!
When I thought I was a grown-up, and skipping down the flowered path of infatuation, I don't think I really had any concept that this doe-eyed, your kiss makes the world stop turning, you are all I need in the world love -would eventually also mean suffering.  I did not know that these two were twisted sisters.  However, I have found along the way, as romance has ebbed and flowed and matured into the kind of love that says, "I am here, your partner for life; I have your back; I am your person," that those we love most also have the greatest capacity to hurt us. Oh, and how we have hurt one another in some of the worst ways! That being said, we have also loved each other in the very best ways, ways that are full of grace and redemption, rolling on the floor laughter, and singing and dreaming. When you know someone inside and out, you know just how to bring someone the greatest joy and pain.  Has it been worth it? Even knowing the good, the bad, the breath-taking beauty, and the ugly? Yes, I would get up and do it all over again today. Oh, yes, the risk of loving is always worth taking

What about the J that didn't stay? That itty-bitty brown baby whom I loved through middle of the night feedings and who delighted me with his first smiles and chubby hands reaching for me in the morning - oh, how I loved him! His loss, the loss of a child who felt like my own but never was, was like arrows in my heart and even now - nearly 9 months since he went back to his Other Mother - he shows up in my dreams, in the photos on the wall, and in unsolicited memories. I love and miss him, and I always will.  If I could rewind the clock and get that phone call again - on April 18, 2013 - from Department of Child Services, I would say, "Yes, yes, yes!" all over again.  I would not miss a single moment of those 6 months with him.  The risk of loving is always worth taking.

Sometimes I get ahead of myself. (For those who know me, this is not a shocking statement.)  I have been mothering, and falling in love with, Baby J (II) and Sister K for about 10 weeks, and as such, I start to imagine a life where they never leave. These are dangerous imaginings, for a "for-now-foster mama," but it is hard to keep them at bay.  J&K may stay for the long term, they may go in the short term, and reality is, that regardless of which - loving them will eventually mean leaving them - whether it is after a lifetime or within the month or year.  The other reminder, is that along the journey of every type of parenting, there are the little leavings that hurt and they are not to be avoided.  Starting school, not asking for help, hurting each other, leaving for college, getting married are all leavings and there are a million in-between.  Another day of life, another day of love, another day of leavings - big and small, another day of risk....may it ever be so, because, if we want to know great love then we have to take great risks and if there is one thing I want, in this whole world, it is to love well and to be loved well. Bring on the love - bring on the risk!


  1. Jennifer, you are an amazing woman and mom! I love looking at your pics on FB and this is wonderfully written. I couldn't imagine loving a baby like that and then giving him/her back. That takes a very strong and loving person. Love conquers all, so like you said, bring it on!!!

  2. You made me cry...especially about my dad. His loss was heart breaking for me. I'll never have the love of another man, like his love... he was amazing and I miss him daily.
    I cant imagine the pain that comes from a child leaving your loving arms, I can't imagine being able to even handle that, you have much more strength than I