Memories and Tough Love

I wanted to do a Memorial Day post… well, I wanted to, and I didn’t. This year it is different for me, having a son in the service. Over the past few months since he got back from training, we’ve had some interesting conversations about military service, deployment, and other such topics. When I came home yesterday, he was watching a war documentary of sorts, and I must admit, as intrigued as I was, I so wanted to turn away, turn back the clock, and make “this thing” never happen.

I also remember the first time he came back from Basic Training, and the respect he received in the airport. People wanted to carry his bags, and made it a point to thank him for his service to his country. I was so proud of him then, as I am now. I know, however, that pride comes with a very high price tag.

My son made a very tough decision to enter the military. He wasn’t forced, and was not so despairing of life that he felt he had no choice. He was also not misled, because he had a friend serving in the same branch that told him of the reality of service. When he told me, we talked about it a lot, but I knew, his mind was made up. It was going to happen, and I couldn’t stop him. I could do something though… I could love him through his decision.

Sometimes, love is tough. Actually, I’d say most of the time, really. I’m not talking about Hollywood sit-com love that always works itself out in 30 minutes, but real love. Love that challenges, love that pushes you forward, love that causes you to make the tough choices. Or love that makes you accept the tough choices of others.

Even though I am a hopeless romantic, and love that fluffy kind of love, I appreciate the tough love as much for what doesn’t have. Tough love doesn’t dress itself up. There are no roses or chocolate (well, I’m sure there has to be chocolate there somewhere 🙂 ). Tough love isn’t afraid to get dirty, to be misunderstood, and to risk it all, not even for self… it risks it all for the sake of others. I find that awesome.

The other thing I like about tough love is that it is so not a pushover. There is a statement that people make about God I find to be true: “God loves you exactly as you are, and loves you too much to leave you that way”. I had two different conversations with my kids about their area of expertise, and in thinking of it, I realize that they were really the same conversation, having to do with the need for a coach or director in our lives. The basic point of the conversation was that the coach/director’s job is to pull out of us what we normally won’t do for ourselves. It is how I see tough love. It is often that director, that coach, and it shows up in so many ways, and in so many people. I have been challenged, maybe more this year than any other, to be that coach for others, to demand of them that they make the tough choices for them, even as I learn to do the same for myself.

My son will probably deploy, and no matter when, it will be sooner than I want. The hard part for me, is that I have to, in my own way, help him prepare for deployment. I have to be supportive and positive, but also realistic. This is hard stuff for any parent, friend, loved one, etc.  I’m learning how to be that for him, and in turn, learning how to love better all around.

When I think of Memorial Day, I  think of those whose love of family, country, etc. was tough. Tough enough for them to keep going, to not give up, to push when everything in them said they could not. I think of those who made hard choices of self sacrifice, and of those who said “no one gets left behind”. Gutsy… raw… real love. It’s how I want to love people. I realize that it is wrought with risk, but that’s where the rewards come.

I like pretty love. For me, chivalry will never die. But I also love the scarred hands that risked the thorns to pick  the roses.

12 Replies to “Memories and Tough Love”

  1. Brother mine,

    Like you, I like pretty love. In fact, I tell people I am unashamedly romantic.

    As well, I agree that “Gutsy… raw… real love … is wrought with risk….” It is forged in the fires of the heartaches we all experience. What’s hard for you, beloved brother, is knowing that whether you both enjoy a long lifetime here together or Joshua meets Jesus before you do (sorry, I had to say it), he will see and experience things completely opposite to the original Divine plan, and will carry those memories with him for the rest of his years. As a parent, you want to protect him from that pain, and your heart breaks knowing you cannot do so.

    I’m proud of you both for taking this journey, proud of your whole family actually. And proud of all those who determine to make a difference in this world, whatever that difference would be, in order that it might be a better place for others.

    Thank you for sharing your struggle along this (and other) journey(s). Putting words to it helps others of us when we either need to make those decisions ourselves or be the tough-love supporter for another.

    All of Heaven’s best, all my love,
    Margret

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    1. Sis, what you said is definitely in the back on my mind. it is also what I cannot focus on. With all of the realities out there, I have to focus on the one in front of me – my son needs me to be a great dad for him now.

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      1. And you are that: a great dad for him, now and always. No, you cannot focus on the other things, nor should you, because we are all asked to be present, fully involved in every aspect of our lives, neither regretting yesterday nor frightened about tomorrow. Our great I Am, He who is our ever-present help in time of need, will be with us always in everything. So enjoy the relationship you have with your children: that is what you’re called to do! 🙂

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  2. You’ve captured what love is like so well, I’m not even sure how to comment without quoting back your every word 🙂
    Most of the time love is tough, even the fluffy kind of love turns into tough love and when that happens, that’s when one realizes how important it is to have that kind of love in their lives, in their country, in this world.
    I’m so glad you shared this post with us, thank you.
    *sending you strength and lots of love*

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  3. I agree with Estrella, you’ve expressed what love is like so perfectly :). I can relate to the feeling of wanting to turn back the clock when my daughter joined the Navy. I have to admit I was secretly glad when she decided it wasn’t for her, and decided to leave it. Yet having a military background myself, I understand your son’s desire. Your sister’s remark expresses it perfectly…your son will see things opposite to the Divine Plan, but I also see he, and all the men and women who feel a calling to go into service in the true sense ARE the bringers of the light and love needed in those dark places. He is armored with it, especially after learning from you. 🙂

    I also agree we absolutely need that director/coach in our lives. Our Big Brother, Jesus, knew how to deal out some tough love. I once had a dream where He was giving me a rebuke, and I can honestly say I never want to experience it again, even though I saw the love behind it. It had the desired affect though, and I dropped the resistant and rebellious attitude I had going.

    Your son, and your family will are in my prayers.

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    1. I’ve had those tough love scenarios from Jesus as well. Those lessons you never forget.

      Josh is being light in the dark places, and the darker it gets, the more light he will show. I appreciate your comments

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  4. Very hard stuff for a parent — to some degree we all have to go through it, but it’s a steeper path for some. I am so impressed with your son’s commitment to this country, and I’m so appreciative and proud of him. And I’m also so supportive of you for the “scarred hand” love you get from risking the thorns.

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