Is God's love for us truly unconditional? As a mother of a child with Down Syndrome, Rebekah Lyons discusses what unconditional love is and how it's based on who you are rather than what you do.
Questions for Discussion and Personal Reflection
- In what circumstances in your life have you seen something like unconditional love?
- How have you tried to strive or perform in order to feel loved and accepted?
When I was 26, my firstborn was born and five hours after an emergency c-section— and he was in a transition nursery on basically a feeding tube and a respirator— the doctor comes in at 1am and says we see signs of Down Syndrome in your baby, and I was so medicated that I looked at Gabe, and we kind of made eye contact and then we just rolled back over and fell asleep. I hadn't held him or seen him at that moment and didn't even know how to process that. I actually had a false negative saying everything was okay, so I had never even given it a second thought from early on in my pregnancy. But the next day I'm in a wheelchair, and, and wheeled downstairs and got to see him for the first time, and he was hooked to all these tubes, and they looked to me and said, "He doesn't have a heart defect," which is remarkable because 1, like, 50% of kids with Down Syndrome do, and so I thought, "Well, maybe he does have Down Syndome, maybe he doesn't." It takes several days to get the results of something like that, so six days later on my husband's birthday I got a call and said, "It's positive," and in that moment, I had a hard shower cry, like some people can relate to, where you just kind of go, "Life looks different now," and we quickly got dressed and got in the car and I remember driving back to hospital because Cade was still in the NICU. He was only four and a half pounds at birth and he had to stay there until he gained weight. I held him that day and he looks at me with eyes that says, "Are you going to love me for me? Or are you gonna love me for what I can accomplish, and what I can do, and what milestones I can hit so that you can think you're a good mom?" And I realized that that was the first glimpse I ever had of unconditional love that no matter what you do, you're loved because of who you are, and growing up, I had done a lot of striving. I had done a lot of performing to prove my worth and to feel loved and accepted and affirmed, and my son's life just shook that and turned it upside down, and all of the sudden it changed the way I saw the world and the way I saw other people, and Cade now is twelve, and he has completely rocked our world. We have two other kids that are ten and eight, and they're growing up with a vantage point on life that all people are worth much. It's so beautiful. I'm so grateful for it. I'm grateful that he was my first. I'm grateful that my other two get to grow up and be his siblings and, and understand compassion in ways that took me years to really know. And the beauty is Cade in New York City is showing, is really confronting this in New York City because as you walk down streets, people don't want to make eye contact. People don't want to wave or say hi, but Cade, Cade doesn't let that happen. He'll get in your face and be, like, "Hi!" on an elevator. "Hi", and if they don't respond, he won't stop. He's relentless. He'll be, like, "Hi," and finally they're, like, "Hi!" It's just creating this awareness that these lives are important, and they bring something to this world that we desperately need, and I'm grateful that I've had a modeling of love, and Jesus to me looks like one that wants to meet us in wherever we are, meet us where we are with our shame without judgment with this embrace of love, and all of the sudden, when we feel that, we want to respond to it. We want to be free with that.