I had never heard this expression before: stubborn love. It was presented as characteristic of God-love, of God-like love. We started with the story of Ruth in the Old Testament. Naomi and her husband have been forced from their homeland by famine. In the new foreign land Naomi loses both her husband, and subsequently her two sons, their only children, in death. The two daughters-in-law head back toward Judah, Naomi’s homeland until Naomi pleads with them to go back to their land, to return to their people. Ruth as you know, refuses to abandon Naomi. Even when Naomi is pretty hard to put up with. Naomi is bitter and wants to go by the name of Mara meaning bitter. She is complaining along the way; and yet Ruth continues to love, to support, to nurture Naomi. She, Ruth, is stubborn with her love.
You too, probably know about stubborn love even if you like me, had never heard the expression. When I was young I went through a stage that if my mother said “black” I said “white” – you probably did too. We were “separating.” Even though this went on for some time my mother stubbornly loved me. The tables turned when she was aged and ill and not very engaging; my stubborn love kicked in, no matter what she said or did.
I recently heard the author of a new book speak on TV; the book deals in some way with various family dynamics. He had interviewed the parents of Dylan Klebold, one of the perpetrators at Columbine High School. The parents had had no idea of the things their son had been planning; they had nothing but sorrow for the act carried out and the lives which had been taken; but nonetheless, they loved their son. This is stubborn love. It is the kind of love I hope others might feel for me; the kind of love I pray I might be able to extend to others; the kind of love I trust that God has for me – and for you, and for all.
Recently I heard a story from a man about his nephews. When the boys were young they called their aunt and uncle to come and pick them up from their home – their mother was an alcoholic and things had gotten out of hand. They made the lengthy drive and picked up the boys. Once they left the mother called the police to report her children had been “kidnapped” – a very serious offense. The aunt, uncle and boys in the car were pulled over by the police once they were located, and accused of kidnapping – and threatened with arrest. The young boys (9 and 10) had the wisdom to ask the police to go see their mother before arresting their aunt and uncle; and they did. And the police told the couple they were free to go. For four years, and intermittent periods after that, these young boys joined the couple’s own three boys in one home – happy and safe. Ordinary people, loving stubbornly, consistently, persistently.
What ordinary people in your life have loved you stubbornly…loved you no matter what behavior you exhibited, loved you in the midst of their own pain? Who have you loved with an unflagging consistency? Thanksgiving is coming…maybe it’s time for us to acknowledge these gifts.