Talk about an ideal! Unconditional love tops the chart of virtues to aspire toward. It's not easy to love another without concern for self, desire for benefit, or even expectation of thanks. Aspiring to such an ideal is great; achieving it on occasion is even more impressive. Yet mothers are expected to love their children unconditionally all the time!
How realistic is that? It's easy enough with newborns and sleeping babies. It's imaginable with feisty toddlers, though it takes more patience. Eye-rolling, smart-mouthed teens raise the bar considerably. But what about mothers facing grown children whose lives are anything but productive? Is unconditional love still a reasonable expectation – or an appropriate one?
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this newspaper, would likely answer "yes." In her primary work, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," she described the enduring nature of maternal love, regardless of circumstances. She wrote: "A mother's affection cannot be weaned from her child, because the mother-love includes purity and constancy, both of which are immortal. Therefore maternal affection lives on under whatever difficulties" (p. 60).
These words not only explain the spiritual nature of mother-love but assure us – whether we're moms or not – that unconditional love is attainable.
The spiritual nature of mother-love guarantees that it can't (and won't) be depleted because it has its source in God, divine Love. So when patience evaporates or a child (even a grown one) behaves repulsively, no matter how distraught the mother may feel, her pure and constant affection for her child remains intact. Since that love has a spiritual basis, it can't be touched by material circumstances. Grasping this calms the situation by revealing both the parent's and the child's true identities as children of God. Once the mom is able to focus on the innocence of her own and her child's true nature, the best response to the behavior becomes clear, and mother and child can move past the problem to whatever correction is needed.
Of course, moms aren't the only ones capable of expressing mother-love, and caring for children isn't the only occasion for doing so. Jesus expressed this kind of love throughout his career but most poignantly, perhaps, in the garden of Gethsemane shortly before he was crucified. His disciples – acting a lot like children – failed repeatedly to obey his command "Watch with me" (Matt. 26:38). Jesus probed their failure and urged them to improve, but he never stopped loving them. Mrs. Eddy's description of this scene – "love meeting no response, but still remaining love" – aptly conveys the Master's mother-love (Science and Health, p. 586).
Each of us is capable of pure, constant affection. Regardless of gender or age, and whether or not we have children, we have the capacity to express mother-love because God created us that way. The Bible tells us, "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them" (Gen. 1:27). In other words, God created each of us to image forth, or express, both the masculine and feminine qualities of our Father-Mother God.
None of us escapes the tall order of expressing unconditional love. Fortunately, none of us escapes the blessing of being loved unconditionally either, because that's the way our Father-Mother God loves each one of us.
Spend a few moments each day affirming the fact that God, divine Love, supplies you with the purity and constancy of mother-love – and the ability to express it. See where that prayer leads. Discover what tender affection and action it impels. The possibilities are as unlimited as Love itself.