Unconditional Love

1011977_10200749056901224_1469286251_nWhile Nikita Khrushchev and President John F. Kennedy exchanged Cold War rhetoric on the eastern and western sides of the Berlin Wall and a popular group of young British male musicians posted their first song to the top of the charts in the United Kingdom, a handsome Pennsylvania gentleman and his lovely young bride drove through the ridges of the Laurel Highlands to set out on the adventure of a lifetime. Their story didn’t headline Walter Cronkite’s evening news, The New York Times, or even the local paper, but the joining of their hands, the twinkle in their eyes, and the collective sigh from a kiss started a whirlwind effect that would forever change this world.  For you see, to this newlywed couple, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad became more than the typical marital platitude, it evolved to a concept of God’s unconditional love in action, not only towards one another, but to family, friend, neighbor, and stranger.

This passionate and compassionate love birthed a daughter and a son. It fed households across the state with large loads of grain, despite tedious deliveries from the local feed store. It clothed hundreds of women around the country, even when the quota at the local dress factory looked unobtainable. It protected and served family, friends, neighbors, and businesses throughout the great Blacklick Valley, when fire and flood threatened or stole from years of hard work and labor. It blazed new trails and maintained thousands of miles of highways so thousands could reach their dreams and destinations.

Their unconditional love helped to mend broken relationships. It listened to the cares and worries of a neighbor over a hot, steaming cup of coffee. It gave a ride to the beggar man in spite of his filth and odor on a hot summer day, and showed mercy to the careless, young prankster. It prepared not one, but two or three generations of students to capture their lifelong ambitions. It hovered over countless bedsides of the unwell, seeking to provide a relief from the pain and suffering. It cared for ailing parents and released a grandson into the loving arms of Jesus. It made lasting impressions, not so much by its footprints, but by its knee prints.

While this unconditional love wasn’t necessarily extraordinary in the eyes of publishers, politicians, or cultural movers and shakers, it was unique and life-changing to those who walked in the everyday, the ordinary, and the seemingly mundane. It made the worthless feel worthwhile. It sparked a glimmer of hope for the hopeless and dangled a silver-lining of purpose to those who sought to discover its meaning.

Lest you think this a fairytale, in no way was this unconditional love perfect, for we are all human and we all have our days. Their household was no different than yours or mine, but at the end of the day, this love mended the hurts, the scars of difficult lessons, the wounded prides,  the frustrations, the empty checkbooks,  and broken pieces and reminded us of a place where all were safe and could simply come home again.

Much has changed since 1963. We’re immersed in a culture where personal gratification takes precedent over sacrifice and service and patience has no virtue. Love comes attached with contracts, pre-nuptial agreements, and strings. It is easily discarded and tossed aside when the challenges, imperfections, and the grind of daily living become inconvenient. Over the past several weeks, I have shared my parents upcoming celebration and was often asked about the secret of their marital longevity. I simply reply, “what secret?” because there are no hidden surprises in God’s unconditional love.