Love isn’t love. Until you give it away.
She leans in to talk to me, dark eyes sparkling. A beauty of a girl. I ask her what she has planned for the rest of the weekend. And then, her face lights up. And she tells me that she is going to see her son as soon as we finish supper together. She has plans for meeting with him at 8:00 p.m. this particular evening. And she simply cannot wait. Her body language and smile radiate joy and excitement in the anticipation.
I am a bit confused. My new friend and I- we are getting to know one another little by little with every visit, but I already do know this: she has one child- an eight-year old boy. And she previously dropped him off to play an early hockey game prior to our visit over supper hour. I am sure my face reveals a state of perplexity. Bewilderment.
She smiles warmly, and then continues her original train of thought. Again, confirming that she has dropped her son off at the rink, but that she is still going to see her other birth child this evening- the full brother to her eight-year old hockey-playing son. This other child she plans to meet with this evening is her now seven-year old son…the one whom she gave away.
The child she gave away?
I brace myself, even as she plunges into the rest of the story. She tells me immediately on the heels of that last statement that she chose to be a surrogate mother eight years ago, at the age of twenty. She was at the time a very young mother with a one-year old baby boy, loving the experience of motherhood. But for all intents and purposes, a very young mama. And in the midst of this new chapter of her life, she was presented with a life-altering request. Would she be willing to act as a surrogate mother for a husband and wife who had tried for ten years to conceive a baby to no avail? Would she give a life for another?
She followed her heart. Believing that she could give this gift of life to another woman, having experienced firsthand the miracle of childbirth and becoming a mother. And so she said yes. Yes, to the woman who desired to be a mother. Yes, to the heartfelt entreaty of this couple. Yes. And in saying yes, she freely offered up a piece of her own life. And gave it away.
Nine months later, as she held that tiny bundle of new life in her arms, she felt for the few moments she had alone with her newborn a desire to renege on this monumental offering of sacrificial love. As she looked into her newly-birthed baby’s eyes, she felt love, unconditional love. Then joy. Followed by peace. Peace that this was indeed the right decision. Peace that this child was going to be safe, loved and cherished. And when my friend lifted up her eyes and saw the expectant couple rush into the hospital room-a bundle of taut nerves and raw emotions, she knew that what she was about to do was all for love. The love of a child. And the love of a friend.
Because love isn’t love. Until you give it away.
In giving up her baby to this other childless couple, my friend showed extreme love. Not everyone can or should show this kind of love. It is not what most of us are called to do. But in this particular case, an example of love is shown that breaks the barriers. And re-defines for me what true love is all about. This woman was willing to lay down her own desires on the altar of self-sacrifice so as to give the ultimate gift that one can ever give: offering up that which is the most precious- a life- and offering that precious life to a friend. The gift of laying aside one’s own wants and desires so that the needs of another can be met is extreme. Extreme love costs something. It requires self-sacrifice. Putting every hindrance aside so that nothing stands in the way. No guilt, no selfishness, no self-pity, jealousy, envy or pride. All is laid on the altar when the gift given is love. For love is the greatest, most complete expression of emotion we’ve been given.
And we have been shown down through the ages that those who have love, and give it away, are the ones who make the greatest difference. “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15: 13, NIV)