Don’t Be Afraid When They Love You Imperfectly

by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller

My Darling Child,

As I grow older, I have come to realize that love is a very rare and misunderstood thing. There are many people who will tell you that they love you who really don’t. Sometimes, such people are liars. Other times, they simply do not know what love is, or how to express it properly. There are also people, such as family members, who know that they’re supposed to love you, so they pretend that they do, but when you get in the way of their pride, selfishness, or desires, the true nature of their feelings is exposed.

I will always love you for as long as I am able, but even I – your parent – am an imperfect being. I may not always be around to tell you that you are loved. Someday, I may be too sick or weak to love you in the way that you deserve. Someday, I will die.

Do not be afraid when those you trust – those you love – love you imperfectly. Our hearts spiral towards entropy; friends lose touch, parents grow old, siblings quarrel, leaders betray, and husbands and wives fail one another continually.

When I was a child, my father did not love me. To some, that may seem like a shocking or unusual statement, but there are many, many fathers who do not love their children.

My father was abusive. He was addicted to his own anger and inflicting fear made him feel powerful and in control. In his private time, he collected pornography, and found secretive ways to leave it where I would find it. That was his way of controlling me. When my mother found porn saved on my computer, my father accused me of having unhealthy interests.

There are two kinds of love in this example; there is the false love of my father which was a warped facade, and there is the imperfect love of my mother, which was weak and compromising.

As much as she loved her child in her heart, my mother did not protect me from my father’s rage or perversion. Even when he hit me in front of her, or said obscene things, she did nothing. When I told her about violent, sexual, or emotional abuse, she did nothing. That is imperfect love; a love that is not strong enough to inspire courage, or deep enough to motivate action.

From a spiritual and emotional perspective, I was an orphan. Though I was young and naive, in a very dark and dangerous situation, I discovered hope and I clung to it.

I first realized that I was an orphan when I was 10 years old. That night, I stayed up late crying, and praying, and crying, and praying. I told God that the “stranger” in my house was not my real father, because he didn’t love me the way a father should. I asked God to be my real father, to be my daddy, to adopt me. I knew that if I were to love this “stranger” who pretended to love me, I would end up like so many other children taking drugs, committing suicide, or getting pregnant when I was 13.

I challenged God. I prayed, “You said, ‘Blessed are those who weep.’ Here I am God! I am weeping now.”

And God answered my prayer. After hours of crying, all in an instant, I was filled with a peace – filled with a knowing – that I was loved.

So, My Darling Child, do not be afraid when friends betray you, when loved ones hurt you, or even when you parents fail miserably in their love for you. There is a God – there is a Love – that is greater than all the hearts of the human race combined. He will never leave you or forsake you. He will never forget you or fail you. He is constant and true. He is your Daddy.

Do not let your heart rely too much on human love. At the same time, do not close your heart up to it. Understand that it is fleeting, it is imperfect, and it ebbs and flows. If you anchor your heart in it, it will eventually give way, and you will be set adrift. Anchor your heart in Jesus Christ, for He is your foundation, your solid ground, and your shelter amid the storm of life.

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