*smile* Thank you dear, for such an engaged response.
In all the instances you raised of people loving when it is difficult, they are instances of unconditional love in the way I meant it. But of course, no human being is capable of offering that kind of love all the time. The same people who love us the most unconditionally at other times also show conditional love, whether or not they realize it. These instances of conditional love do not negate the instances of unconditional love they show, but they still wound us. I meant only that these wounds are nevertheless significant, even though we know the person actually loves us very much.
Neither do I mean that I expect to be loved perfectly by another person, though I think we are all born with that desire. I am merely acknowledging that because I am not, I have wounds. I should not ignore my wounds because I think it is ungrateful to think this way of someone who also shows me many more instances of unconditional love. Acknowledging my wounds and stepping over them through forgiveness actually allows me to behold just how beloved I am by the very people who hurt me. The warmth of their love becomes all the more brilliant when I accept their humanity. :)
I am capable of instances of unconditional love, but far from the perfect unconditional love that God offers. I am not able to offer such perfect unconditional love even to myself. Every instance of unconditional love occurs when we think not of ourself, but of the other. To make unconditional love a life-discipline rather than a series of sporadic ventures is a huge challenge because I need to empty myself.
I wish to be able to give without asking in return. But I cannot deny I am hurt deeply when those whom I love do not or cannot reciprocate. To those whom I give the most, I often expect the most in return. Would I, as mother next time, be able to love my children whether or not they are grateful to me, whether or not they respect me? In a general sense, I think I can. But I bet I will be angered, and hurt, even indignant if I feel that I am not given my due. That’s normal. That’s human. But those would be indications to me that I do not love unconditionally. And every time I with-hold unconditional love, I would hurt my children too.
Can I continue to love others even when my love is rejected? Is my love deep enough that I will not hold on to them against their will, but unconditionally forgive them and rejoice if and when they return to me – like the compassionate father in the parable of The Prodigal Son?
It’s a process… the answer is neither a flat ‘no’ nor a firm ‘yes’. :) I am still too full of myself… my own doubts, my fears… to love so gratuitously. Yes, you’re right that for me, I believe that only God offers perfect unconditional love. I also believe that if I let myself be ‘received home’ in His love, He will be my healer, and my teacher. And if I’m willing to let Him live through me, I will hopefully become better and better with practicing unconditional love as a life-discpline even while I may never perfect it in this life-time!