Rational people don’t believe in love at first sight. And so, while walking along the boardwalk with my family one warm summer night, I was completely unprepared for the intensity of emotion I felt when I first caught a glimpse of him. I was in awe at his beauty. I immediately wanted to touch him. I knew it was absurd, but I didn’t want to leave him. Ever.
I returned the next day. And the next. Even now, I feel pulled to return as often as I can. I can’t seem to help myself; he is like a drug to me. When I am unable to venture the half mile to his domain, I am unsettled and worried. I just want to see that he is safe and happy. I need to know he still exists.
My husband thinks I’m crazy, and truth be told, I think he is rather jealous of my obsession. He reasonably reminds me that this love will not last. It shames me, yet I know it to be true, for the object of my affection is a loathsome creature. Or more rightly said, he will become a loathsome creature all too soon. You see, my lovely little friend is a seagull chick. I absolutely detest seagulls. They are right up there with crows and spiders in the nasty, repulsive, why-did-God-make-these-beasts department.
Regardless, I seem to have lost all sense of decorum when I laid eyes on Bert. (He just looked like a Bert, so go with it, eh?) This fluffy fellow is all alone on the rocky shoreline. His young mates are all on a dilapidated pier several yards out into the bay. How he alone came to be stranded on the shore, I do not know. But until he can fly, Bert is isolated save for his mother who watches vigilantly over him.
These feelings I have for him are totally irrational. If there were a roving band of rowdy seagull baby-killers on the loose in my neighborhood, I would sit down on the rocks near Bert, my gun resting lightly in my lap, and dare anyone to touch this precious creature. Yet I also know that when he grows to adulthood, I would likely turn that same gun on him myself if it were legal to do so. I am obviously a conflicted woman.
This chance meeting with Bert has caused me to ponder how fickle my love really is. I suppose more accurately, it is not my love that is changeable, but my feelings of love. If I am to be nakedly honest here, I will confess that I do not always feel love for those around me.
When my husband first turned his attentions on me, it was easy to be consumed by the giddiness of emotion. When he says something hurtful now, 20 years later, not so much. The ecstasy of new love gets eclipsed by dirty socks, toilet seat wars, and the messiness of children. Sometimes those old feelings are nowhere to be found.
When I first held my eldest daughter, it was easy to feel the warmth of love. But when she remained colicky for weeks on end, I felt nothing whatsoever. I simply wanted her to live somewhere else. Permanently. In fact, all of my children have had seasons that drained the wells of motherly love plumb dry.
When my friends do and say things that frustrate or hurt me, I am likely to shut off all feelings of camaraderie. Let’s face it, life is much less messy without other people in it.
Yet, I somehow find that all of you messy people actually enrich my life. And so, whether I am feelin’ it or not at any given moment, I will choose to love anyway. This is what my Lord has called me to do.
So when I opt to bless my husband even when I’d rather hit him with a frying pan, when I deliberately nurture my children even when I’d rather sell them to the next passing band of gypsies, when I choose to not look at you as though you were something stuck to the bottom of my shoe because you said/did something supremely stupid; those are the moments I can see Christ at work in me. When I decide to not base my actions on my emotions, I suddenly find that He enables me to do this love thing after all.
So what has my affair with Bert taught me? He has reminded me that emotions may be fickle and fleeting, but loving the unlovable is possible. We all have moments, sometimes whole seasons, of being obnoxious, raucous, scavengers. How we respond to each other in those moments is the indicator of how much we are becoming like Jesus Himself.
Lord, help me to love more freely. Let me see others with Your eyes, and treat them as the precious masterpieces they are. Let me not rely on my ever changing emotions, but on Your grace and power. May your unchanging, unfathomable love pour through me. Amen.