“[Agape love] is a profound concern for the welfare of another without any desire to control that other, be thanked by that other, or enjoy the process.” — Edward Nason West
Two months ago my man and I heard Anne Lamott speak. Every word transfixed me, but one story in particular adhered to my brain. An Alaskan couple, friends of Anne’s, desperately wanted children. By the time they reached their tenth wedding anniversary, they’d tried fertility drugs, IVF, old wives’ tales, and mountains of prayer, all to no avail. Finally, they started the adoption process. With the pressure gone, as sometimes happens, the couple conceived. Joyfully they trekked to the city for numerous appointments due to the wife’s advanced maternal age. Unfortunately, the doctor soon had painful news: the baby was a hermaphrodite. Anne’s friends had three choices: 1) surgically remove the female organs, 2) surgically remove the male organs, or 3) raise the baby as a hermaphrodite. They spent the rest of the nine months in prayer and serious discussion with counselors, medical professionals, pastors, and each other. After the birth, the mother wrote on her blog, “We decided to love the baby that came.”
What a liberating decision. The baby that came to my mother 28 years ago is in turn compassionate and prideful, intelligent and ignorant, wise and foolish, devout and sinful, creative and dull. She has too-large thighs and crooked ring fingers. She’s an avid reader but a terrible athlete. She burns the rolls and still forgets to turn off the oven. But my parents love the baby that came. So do my man, my sister, my friends, my Savior. It’s downright incomprehensible when I think about it—being loved in this way—because I certainly don’t deserve it.
Not that anyone ever does. Last week in French III, I asked my students an unfair and impossible question: Define “love”. A beautiful discussion resulted, but my favorite answer was this one: “Love grows when the space between people is filled with acceptance.” How beautiful. In my experience, we’re all messy, and, screw-ups that we are, we don’t deserve anything, least of all acceptance. But we’re trying our best, however successful or faulty our attempts may be. We’re trying to find community, to breathe in peace, to be a little less lonely. We’re all hoping that someone will accept the—by all accounts, problematic—baby that came. So we accept each other as perfect and imperfect as we paradoxically are, stumbling toward something like love.
I’ll take it.