I had a really wonderful family. My parents, both educators, took us to church regularly, and tried to live out the principles of Christ in our home. They also taught us to do the same thing. They were very generous in serving in church and in the community. They were amazingly supportive of their three children, including me, my sister and my brother. All of us were very active in the arts. Between piano lessons, band, choir and theatre, I don’t think my parents ever missed any of our concerts, plays or recitals. Neither of them were musicians, yet they spent many hours “suffering” through long concerts or recitals to hear one of us sing or play a 2 or 3 minute piece. Our home was full of love, music, lots and lots of humor and a deep affection for each other. We weren’t “touchy, feely” in our family, but we laughed and enjoyed one another immensely.
One particular year after we had all left home, my brother announced that we should go together and buy Mom and Dad a new TV for Christmas. We all three thought it was a great idea and we pooled our money to buy a beautiful new television for our parents. We agreed that my brother would make the purchase and on Christmas morning he would have it sitting out in my parent’s garage for the grand finale after the usual Christmas present carnage.
A few weeks before that Christmas, true to form, my parents and my sister drove to Ft. Worth to see a Christmas Pageant that I was in. They drove to Ft. Worth on a Saturday afternoon and headed back home to Oklahoma that same night. On the way home the weather rapidly changed and in a matter of hours the roads became icy. My dad hit an icy patch and the car began to spin wildly. It only stopped when it ran into a guard rail. Dad managed to pry open the doors for everyone to get out of the car. As they were looking to see what damage had been done, another car hit a similar spot, spun out of control and hit my mother and sister. They were thrown about 15 feet in the air and landed on the other side of the street.
Although there were hospitalizations to follow and injuries that took time to heal, everyone was released from the hospital in time for Christmas. Christmas morning we gathered as usual in the living room to open presents. My siblings and I had brought gifts for each other and a few little things for our parents, knowing what was waiting in the garage for them…the new TV.
After we had opened a few gifts, Mother said, “Kids, we are so sorry. Since the accident we haven’t been able to get you anything.” “Oh that’s ok,” we said, “But we have a surprise for you.” We took them out to the garage to see the beautiful TV. My parents didn’t say a word. In that moment I realized that my parents were crying. My brother and sister and I looked at each other. We were all crying. It was not the TV. It was the sudden realization that we were all alive and together. Who cares about an old TV. Who cares about presents. Look! We are all here together. We are safe. As we walked back in the house, we were crying and hugging and telling each other how much we loved one another. That practice became a part of every gathering for the rest of our lives. The saying of “I love you” became the sign-off of every phone conversation.
We didn’t suddenly begin to love each other. Love was already present. It had always been there, but the reality and the acknowledgment of our love took on new meaning.
In Jeremiah 31:3 God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” How easy it is for us to take those words for granted. What would happen if we had a glimpse of the everlasting love of God vibrant and alive in us? I pray that we will each find new meaning as we acknowledge the incredible gift of God’s everlasting love in the days to come.