He says the words that really make sense to both of us–“It’s like the baby can be “difficult” all day and you never lose patience with him while I can work all day to help you out, and yet I do one thing wrong and you are frustrated at me.” I know the words are true, and I want to defend them. After all, this baby is helpless; I just can’t lose patience with him. But it is hard–this love for a husband and love for a baby. And the books say that it is tricky to balance it all.
We’re on a walk when I mention it. I could tell he was feeling it–the new little being that absorbed all of our time, especially mine. I say, “I read somewhere that a woman loves her husband conditionally and her baby unconditionally.” It’s an open invitation to talk. And at first, the concept of conditional and unconditional love makes sense to me. After all, I can’t help but love the baby; he is my own flesh and blood. He is precious to me. I did not choose to love him; I just do. The baby does not have to do anything to get or keep my love. (And let’s be honest, if my husband burped as often as the baby he would not get the same reaction!)
With my husband, on the other hand, I made a choice. I chose this man, and he chose me out of all the other people we could have chosen. I have to choose each day to be kind, to be patient, to work things out. And he does too.
But as I think through this more, there is something special in this choice–something I might dare to call unconditional. When we promised to love one another that June day at the front of the church, we promised to do so without condition. When I trudge into the living room unshowered, exhausted, and not so cheerful, he chooses to love me. When we make mistakes, we choose to work them out. There is something special about this choosing to love–something that makes it different than the unconditional love we have for this little being.
Ultimately both my husband and baby were chosen for me–chosen for me to love. And both show me a love that is crucial to my faith. The love between a husband and a wife shows the beauty of a sacrificial and romantic love–Christ choosing to pursue and love the church. Our wedding and our vows point to a time when we will celebrate Christ’s love for the church and all things being made new. But that also sacrificial parental love points me back to Adam and Eve–to God’s love for His children. He creates them out of love and consistently loves and pursues them, clothing them more extravagantly than they could clothe themselves even when they have betrayed him. I see God’s love for me as I love this tiny baby even when he is “difficult.” And that’s when I realize that it is all bound up inextricably together.
I love my baby. I love my husband. I will always choose to love both of them, no matter what. They are mine. And at the same time but in different ways, I can’t help but love them. The way that little hand reaches out to make sure I am still there when he is sleeping. The way that strong hand reaches out to rub my back in the dark. This love can’t be picked apart and explained, and it’s not even that complicated–it just is, and it is beautiful.