Love is patient and kind, it is not jealous or boastful, it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
As a child in the first grade, I lived on Penn Road in Raleigh, North Carolina. My neighbor Tommy, who was much younger than I, was in kindergarten, but I still played with him. I remember when Tommy was given a new pet, a small black and white kitten that he named Fred. Tommy really loved Fred, so much so that he was afraid to let go of him for fear that Fred might run away. Tommy carried him everywhere he went, and it was always a funny looking sight to see Tommy come running clutching little Fred under the front legs in a football hold. Fred’s back end would just bounce around and his whole face would be wrinkled. But it also scared me that he held Fred so tightly. I remember putting on my grown-up voice once and saying, “Tommy, you should let that kitten down so he can play and breathe.” But Tommy couldn’t take the chance of Fred running away.
One day I came out of my house and saw Tommy sitting alone on his front step crying. I sat down beside him for a long time. I didn’t even ask what had happened. I knew. He had loved Fred so much, and hugged him so hard, he had loved the life right out of him.
At that moment I painfully learned one of life’s lessons: for something to grow, it needs space. Even now, it’s a lesson I think of often. As a parent, it’s hard for me to know when to hold on that I might support my children and when to let go so that they can have room to grow. It is a consideration for me as a married person, too, and also as a member of a church and other groups.
Sometimes it’s not that we don’t love, but we love too much, need to hold on too tight, and run the risk of living the life right out of that which we seek to embrace.
Prayer: Forgive me Lord, for sometimes in caring I seek to hold on too tightly and to control too much. Amen.