Love Is a Right, Not a Privilege

Love is a right, not a privilege.

Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world.

All things break. And all things can be mended.

Not with time, as they say, but with intention.

So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.

The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.

–L.R. Knost

Photo by Alex Block on Unsplash.

Like every other parent in the world, I’m struggling with the Parkland shooting. But not in the way you might think.

I’m weary of the gun debate. I’m exhausted by putting myself in the shoes of parents who have lost children to gun violence in a school, one of the places our children should be safest. But these are not the things that break me right now.

It’s Nikolas Cruz, the last person anyone probably feels sorry for today. I can’t stop thinking about him. I think about him as a baby who must have laughed when his mother tickled him under his chin. I think about him learning to walk, falling, getting up again and one day running into this mother’s arms like my boys did. He started school, he got stickers on his school work. He had dreams he shared. Maybe he wanted to be an astronaut, a cowboy, a policeman.

I keep asking myself what happened. When did he go from being his mom’s little boy to the man who caused so much devastation, the man America hates? What are the wounds he suffered, the ones that left him raw to the bone, that never healed? How did the baby become the monster?

I was nine when my parents divorced. My father got a new wife, Darlene, and two new kids. As the baby of the family, I was excited at the idea of having two new siblings who were younger than me. Instead of being the annoying little sister, it was my time to shine as the big sister who knew everything. I would be a wise and benevolent ruler, totally unlike my older brothers.

Finally, after months of not seeing my father, I got to have my first visit with the new family. We went to the state fair in a town 70 miles away. I had never been there before, and it was exciting beyond measure. As I stopped to look at all the amazing sights, I got left behind. I ran to catch up yelling, “Dad! Dad! Dad!”

He turned and walked back toward me, put his hand on my arm and said softly, “Don’t call me Dad in front of Darlene. She doesn’t like it.”

It felt like time stopped. He walked back to join them and I pretended to be very interested in a carnival booth. It felt like someone had jammed a whole apple down my throat and that it was slicing me down the middle trying to work its way back up.

I glanced over to them in the distance. Surrounded by hundreds of people, I had never felt so alone, so humiliated, and so unloved in my entire life. My hurt was unwitnessed. It was mine alone to carry at 9 years old.

Somewhere a door slammed. It was inside me.

That one quick and devastating wound has defined every relationship I’ve had since. One wound. One entire lifetime.

How wounded was Nikolas Cruz? I can’t think about Parkland and not ask myself that question. I can’t think about Parkland without wanting to track back every event in his life until I find the moment that the door slammed for him.

I have two sons and I ask myself all the time, “Do they feel my love? Are they loved enough? Are all the empty spaces inside them filled with love so there is no room for doubt or hate or uncertainty?”

Love is not earned; it’s not a privilege. Love is not a performance-based bonus for work well done. Love is a basic human right. It’s not finite. You can fling it around generously like a mega-lottery winner in Vegas and you have as much at the end of the night as when you started. Sometimes you have more.

My kids are adopted. They call me Mom. They also refer to their birth mother as their mother. Someone once asked me, “Doesn’t that bother you? YOU are their mother, not her.”

I said, “Why would it bother me? Why wouldn’t I want them to have two mothers? The more moms they love, the more moms they have to love them back.”

Love. Love more. Love until it fills in all the empty spaces. Love until the excess oozes out the seams and threatens to split the one you love wide open.

Loving fully isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Sometimes it’s easier to turn away from the outcasts, from the homeless, from the people who make you uncomfortable. It’s easy to avert your eyes and pretend there are other things more important to attend to.

But don’t kid yourself if you think there’s not a cost each time you do that.

It costs society when you leave people behind. It cost Columbine. It cost Sandy Hook. It cost Parkland.

It costs all of us.

Peacemaker Friday is published weekly to share stories of people unmaking violence around the world. Be inspired. Take Action.