Post by Amanda Price
At the Memorial Service for a lifelong friend, my husband and I could feel the tension between the four children who survived our friend, Mike.
Mike had a hard life. He worked too hard, drank too much, and seemed to have found more fulfillment in both those diversions than his beautiful daughters and sons…and they, because of his diversions, were greatly alienated from Mike. And now found themselves mourning both their father’s passing and lack of relationship with him.
We were fortunate to know Mike from high school and knew him to be a caring friend, a great athlete, and a funny person.
At the sparsely attended Memorial Service, the minister conducted a short service, spoke a few words about Mike’s sense of humor and then asked those in attendance to speak.
A few mourners came forward and related fond memories of Mike’s time with them. But the tension was still present.
I felt called to share a message with Mike’s children that attempted to communicate what we knew of his love for them. And I started by sharing that I often thought ministers should begin counseling a newly engaged couple by asking them if they could love each other in spite of themselves. In other words…
- Could you love someone when they left their dirty laundry on the bathroom floor instead of the hamper?
- Could you love someone if they overspent the family budget month after month?
- Could you love someone who worked too hard at a job and left baseball games unattended, or homework assistance undone?
- Could they love someone if they weren’t perfect?
I shared with Mike’s daughters and sons that Mike loved them and often shared stories of their lives with my husband and me. He displayed their photos and talked with pride about their accomplishments and their relationships, their jobs and their futures.
People love in their own imperfect ways…maybe it is a photo on a table top somewhere rather than a meal shared. Maybe it is spending fruitless time worrying over a child’s life choices rather than listening to a child’s concerns, maybe it is helping when the better choice would be to let a person fail.
Mike loved his children. He loved them imperfectly.
Just like we all do.
We are called to love with forbearance. We are called to love by forgiving. And we are called to love despite who a person is or how they love us in return.
There is only one perfect love—God’s love for us. God sees all our imperfections . . . all the times we curse his name, ignore him, spend more time watching sports or playing Wordle than praising him. He has formed us . . . and knows us inside and out. And loves us beyond the imperfections . . . and is always molding us to be more like Christ.
My hope is that my words stuck with Mike’s children. I don’t harbor any expectation that they did because bitterness and pain are mighty foes. I also live in the promise of God’s great love for us that someday as Mike’s children will look back on their lives as adults and parents, they will realize that their lives were not perfect, and that they will judge themselves—and their father—gently and lovingly, in spite of themselves.