Tough Lovin’

“In the end, love must be a kind of discipline. If we love only with our feelings, we’re sunk–we may feel love one day and something quite other the next. Soon  after he came to live with me–he was eleven years old at the time–I realized I must learn to love with my will, not my feelings. I had to love him when he threw his shoe at the wall and cussed my dog, love him when he called me names I won’t repeat, love him when he refused to eat what I’d cooked after celebrating and preaching at three Sunday services . . . you get the idea.

“And so I enjoyed the warm feelings, the stuff of the heart, when it was present between us, as it sometimes was, even in the beginning. And when it wasn’t, there was the will to love him something like . . . a generator kicking in, a back up.

“I learned over a long period of trial and error to see in him what God made him to be. Wounded people use a lot of smoke and mirrors, they thrust the bitterness and rage out there like a shield. Then it becomes their banner, and finally, their weapon. But I stopped falling for the bitterness and rage. I didn’t stop knowing it was there–and there for a very good reason–but I stopped taking the bullet for it. With God’s help, I was able to start seeing through the smoke. I saw how bright he was, . . . how talented, and how possible it was for him to triumph over so much that hounded him.

“I stopped praying for God to change Dooley; I asked God to change me–to give me His eyes to see into the spirit of this exceptional broken boy.”

Father Tim Cavanagh, on how he loved his adopted son through the hard early years. (In the Company of Others by Jan Karon)

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