For the past five years, God has used both the Advent and Lent seasons as a time to get my attention. A time to reconnect, to recall me in a gentle manner, like that of a loving father whose child has wandered from home. I like to name these experiences my “growing pangs” in an effort to see the value of what I’ve gained rather than what I’ve lost. I have experienced death, transformation, reconciliation, restoration, and a deeper awareness of the calling on my life.
If I were to look at these experiences through the eyes of one that has no relationship with God, I could easily get caught up in the whole “why me” mentality. Instead, I have chosen to see that they come from a place of love. A love of the purest kind, an anchor for my soul, the light unto my path, and the compass of my footsteps on this life journey.
The ability to see pain as an act of love is something I have not always been able to do. Like most people, I have lived with pain and wanted to believe it was love. Growing up, love was a four letter word rarely spoken, with the exception of a praying grandmother that cared for my sister and me while my parents worked. She told us about Jesus, prayed with us, read the Bible to us, and embodied unconditional love. For a little girl reared in a house of pain, that was like the warmth of a blanket on a cold night. In my eyes, she was a saint and I wanted to grow up to be just like her. She loved everyone she met, and they loved her too. The second photo shows us together on the day I was ordained as an Elder in the Presbyterian Church, the fourth generation of Mexican-American women to serve in this capacity.
At this point in my life, I believe God loves me in the same way unconditional way as my grandmother. God has brought me through everything that was painful, disappointing, or unclear because of this great love. Further, God knew that once I got to the other side, He would receive the honor and glory of being the single thing that sustained me.
As it is written in I Corinthians 13, love is patient, it is kind, it does not boast, it does not envy, and it is not proud. These words are timeless and true, if we are open to receiving them. Love is something we all need and cannot
live without, no matter what anyone tells you. It is the air we breathe, the nourishment for our souls, and the very thing that is hardest to receive and give away unconditionally.
So the next time you are hurt by someone, look for the opportunity to love them unconditionally. If you struggle to do this, call on God and trust that God will be waiting to assist you, like a loving father always does.
Arlene J. Esparza is a San Antonio native, advocate for the under-represented in her community, born peacekeeper and Parent Liaison in a local middle school where she builds relationships among teachers, parents, as well as students. She is a humble servant who loves God and animals.