We recently sat in the dark theatre watching Disney’s latest movie Frozen. At one point, my 4-year old foster son made his way to my side, frightened. Scene after scene I held him, sitting like that well past the point of scary snow monsters and ice-filled fury.
And then there came a part in the movie where they start talking about true love—where they mention that it means loving another person and thinking and caring for them first. (Little things like that touch me deep these days. Most things do when your heart is being daily stretched and hammered and put through the refiner’s fire.)
After hearing the words, that little 4-year old looked up at me and whispered, “That’s just like you and me.”
I blinked a few times.
“You mean true love?” I whispered back.
“Yes. That’s just like us. You and me.”
All that can be done in a moment like that is to put your face in his hair and murmur that “Yes, yes it is.” And then you thank God that it’s dark and that you’re pretty good at sniffling quietly. Then, you just flat-out thank God.
You see, this kind of true love is built up like scuffed, dirty, dropped-under-couch-cushion pennies in the bank. Seemingly insignificant deposits slowly, slowly build into something worth something. But the pennies—are they even worth the effort?—get added every day (out of routine, or faith or just plain old persistence) and it looks about as far from glamorous as humanly possible.
This true love does means putting yourself last—in line, for food, for showers and “I love you’s.” It’s doing loving things that don’t feel so loving when they take on the form of cleaning up poop and vomit and anxiety that seeps out of every earthly pore of a too-young-for-this body. It means pulling people closer—on laps and in arms, under wings and into hearts—when sometimes the easiest thing would be to push them away.
This true love is getting down on your knees to look someone in the eyes when those eyes can see nothing but pain or fear or “I’d rather be anywhere but here.”
It’s sacrificing sleep or work or knowing things you’d rather not know to be there—in the hard places. And putting one foot in front of the other to do it all again. Pennies, deposits. Blood, sweat and tears.
So as we sat in that darkness, him in my lap and my lips kissing his hair, I thanked my God for the terribly difficult, messy, heartbreaking, heart-mending pennies-at-a-time deposits that accumulated to make up that specific moment in time. In the second row of a random theatre in a suburban Atlanta town.
Katie Kenny Phillips
Katie Kenny Phillips lives in Atlanta with her husband, Jeff, and their five hilarious kids (3 biological and 2 by way of foster care and adoption). Their home is made up of two parts Legos, one part dirt/sticks/rocks, and all parts “whose underwear is this and why is it in the middle of the family room?” She and her husband help lead their church’s orphan/foster care ministry and spend time encouraging and supporting families who are on foster and adoption journeys. Read more of Katie’s blogs at www.operationleapoffaith.com.