Updated: May 11, 2020
There are a lot of people, places, things, and experiences that I can truly say that I love. However; love in all the ways that I use it, is not equally expressed or valued in my life. Some of my loves are based on enjoyable leisure activities, pleasurable moments and fond memories. Some are based on people that share my interests and that I just enjoy being around. Some of my loves are based on physical, sexual, relational and emotional pleasures and attachments based on intimacy, my need for it, and my desire to give it.
The deepest of my loves however, are the results and derivatives of deeper, more intense, interpersonal relationships that remain even when the circumstances may not warrant it. True love is being loved even when I am not lovable. It is choosing to love others even when I may not feel that my love is being reciprocated. True love is love in action, not expecting anything in return. True love is a sacrificial love that intentionally desires the very best for the ones we love. It is highest form of love. I am convinced that true love cannot be adequately understood or fully experienced outside the context and the demonstration of God's love for us. Let me give you an example:
As our family gathered together for lunch and to open gifts at our house on Christmas afternoon, it was obvious that my youngest granddaughter, Brooke, who is 4, was not feeling good. She came in from playing before we opened gifts and said she wanted to take a nap. She climbed up in the bed and went fast to sleep. I checked on her a couple of times, but she did not appear to have any fever.
She is usually the sassy, energetic, petite little country girl who takes great pleasure in teasing me and playing hard to get when I try to get her hugs and kisses. She is smart beyond her years and always amazes us with what she knows and what she says. When she first turned 3, Grandmamma (Lisa) was trying to find ways to entertain her. She asked Brookie to look up see if she could see the earth moving as the clouds passed by in the night sky. Her response was: "Oh Grandmamma, that is just an obdigal ballusion"! Ha! Who would have thought a 3 year old would know such a thing?
As Christmas day came to a close and we finished roasting marshmallows over the fire, it was obvious that as much as she wanted to play with her cousins, it just was not in her. She felt worse as the day went on and we could now see it in her complexion.
The next day, Ashley (her mother and our daughter) took Brooke to the doctor. When we got the call later that afternoon, Ashley told us that she had appendicitis and that they were headed to Dothan where the surgeon would be waiting to perform an emergency appendectomy.
When we arrived at the hospital, they were still trying to get an IV in her tiny little arms. The surgeon did not want to operate until he could do a CT Scan to insure that her appendix had not ruptured. If it had, he wanted to refer her to a children's hospital for surgery. However; he could not do the scan or surgery until they could get an IV started that was needed to inject the contrast and fluids into her bloodstream.
After 5 hours and 7 different nurses and anesthetists making several painful pokes and sticks trying to find a vein, little Brooke was worn out and terrified. Her fever had risen to 103f. Finally, a vascular nurse was able to get an IV in using ultrasound to guide his needle.
Within another couple of hours, the scan was done and she was cleared and ready to go back for surgery. I remember praying with her and asking God to heal her little body and to give her His peace. Within a couple of hours, she was back with us. The surgeon said that he did not see where the appendix had ruptured, but that all the tissue around it was nasty. As she slept, we all gathered around her and I prayed over her again and thanked God for hearing and answering our prayers.
It was almost as soon as I said amen, that the questions came to me: "What if she had not made it? What if she didn't get well? Would you still thank Me for hearing and answering your prayers?" Wow! Now reality was really setting in! I immediately felt convicted that perhaps my love and praise for God could be conditional based on how He answered my prayers. Perhaps I felt that His love for Brooke, for her parents and brothers, for her Mimi and Pawpaw and Grandmamma and me, was conditional on whether she lived or died--even though if she died she would immediately be with Him forever, never to be sick or die again.
Over the next couple of days, Brookie's condition continued to decline. Her fever persisted despite heavy doses of combinations of antibiotics. She would not eat or drink. Blood cultures would take at least 48 hours to show what infections could be causing her problems. When the blood cultures returned, it showed E-Coli in her blood. To make matters worse, the IV used to administer her antibiotics had blown the vein, and once again, she became a pin cushion. After several unsuccessful attempts by several members of the floor nurses and pediatric staff to find another suitable vein, they finally said they were going to take her away to another room to try again. When they returned her, they said that they strapped her down and tried every vein that they could in her arms and had even tried her feet, but because she was so dehydrated, they just could not get an IV started.
The decision was then made to transfer her by ambulance to Sacred Heart Children's Hospital in Pensacola, FL. Brookie called it the "Doctor's Truck" and told her Mama that she did not want to go to another "Doctor's Hotel. They were not her friends!"
Within several hours of arrival in Pensacola and more unsuccessful attempts to get another IV started, the decision was made to sedate her and put a picc line in her chest. With this line, the needed antibiotics and IV fluids could be administered and additional surgeries if needed, could be performed to insert a drain or to open her up to clean out the infection. The appendix had not noticeably ruptured, but it had leaked infection into her abdominal cavity.
This time when I prayed over Brookie, not only did I pray that God would heal her and take care of her, her parents and her brothers, I also asked Him that if there was no other way, to let me take her place. I asked God to take her infection, her surgery, her sickness and the pain that was in her little body and to put it on me instead. Whatever lay in front of her, even death, I was not only willing, I was desperately asking God to let me bare if that would mean that she could live. I asked God if He could find it in His will, to even take the tormenting grief that her family would face if they lost her, and put that on me as well if that would save them from the grief of losing Brooke. Whatever might lay ahead, because of my love for Brooke and for my family, I asked God to put on me.
Honestly, I pondered as I prayed (and afterwards), whether or not my prayer was even appropriate to ask of God. I prayed in faith for Him to heal Brooke so she could go home with her family and enjoy a good, long life. At the same time, I also thought about all of the other children and parents in that hospital. I thought about those at Children's Hospital at UAB in Birmingham, at St. Jude in TN, and in huts and tents all around the world who were in critical condition. Those parents were also asking God to heal their children so that they too could go home and live with them. However; I knew that many of them would be losing their children, at the very moment that I was praying for God to heal mine.
Though I asked God to be merciful and heal Brooke in this life, I also asked that He be glorified in whatever happened to her. There was no reason why our child deserved to live while another did not. Even if He chose to take her home through death, which He will do one day, I prayed that He would give us the grace to get through it in a way enabled us to still worship and love Him through the process.
As I reflected on the appropriateness of my prayer that God allow me to take Brooke's place, the Holy Spirit reminded me that my love and empathy for Brooke and her family were a reflection of the love and empathy of God the Father for all mankind. When He put His plan in place to take my sin and the punishment for it, and put on His Son Jesus, He demonstrated true love.
When Jesus willingly took my place, and yours, He proved His merciful,
unconditional, unmerited, unending love for His Father, for Brooke, for you and for all people of all nations. He took our punishment and he gave His life as a substitutionary atonement so that we could live with Him and with one another for all eternity. All He asks in return is that we truly love one another and that we truly love Him. When we do, we will live our lives in ways that glorify Him as we serve others and show them the way back to Him. He took their place to give them life, but they need to know it, so that they can receive it.
We can love one another and we can love Him, because He first loved us! To God be the glory for He is good! His mercies endure forever! We are so thankful that Brooke is back home and improving each day.