Real Life Mama: Jesus, mothers — and Lee — know unconditional love

Throughout my life, I have learned and come to know a few things about unconditional love. First and foremost, I know that I have a savior in heaven who loves me without question. I know that there is nothing I have done to deserve His love and I know that there is nothing I could ever do that could make Him stop loving me.

It’s unexplainable. It’s real. And It’s ever so comforting. Much like a Mother’s love, which I learned quickly in my life from my mom as she has stood by my side through thick and thin – bad decisions, mistakes and all. In the last decade, I have also had the pleasure of feeling and giving that unconditional love as well – by becoming a mom myself.

Jesus and mothers. Those are the two who know unconditional love. At least that is what I always thought. Or maybe I just set those expectations in my mind – that no one else could or would love me unconditionally. It’s like it was just a thing that only Jesus and moms did.

And then, a few years ago, I feel like Jesus Himself sent me Lee. You guys, this man saw the most broken down version of myself. That’s how he met me – at my very worst. I was unsteady and indecisive. I was confidently lost – that is, I was confident that I was lost, but also confident that I needed no one. Freshly separated and well, quite honestly angry and emotionally unavailable, I was anything but kind, patient or present most of the time.

In fact, most nights I hid all of me that I could from him – many nights drowning my sorrows with drinks to try and escape the days where I was just trying to muddle through for the girls. Yet, in patches, the Sarah I was and wanted to be again would come through.

And Lee, he grasped onto those patches. Through walls of tears, anxieties and worries, he saw the real me in me. From day one, he clung onto who I was as a person and simply sat with me as I handed him brick after brick of the layer I had built around myself.

He never tried to rush me – just patiently waited as I healed up enough on the inside of one part of me to be able to push another brick out. Sometimes, it was as sketchy as Jenga – like at any second I could fall apart. Sometimes I let go of a brick and then decided it was too soon to let go of and picked it back up. And a few times, I was able to chuck a few bricks so far away that they could never sneak back in and cover me up.

But I never had to hide any part of me from him. I gave him all of my ugly from the beginning. Almost as if I could just get it all out of the way and he could leave as quickly as he came so I wouldn’t have to feel the pain of losing him when he would eventually leave. Because, well, I was certain he would.

After all, the only two who truly loved all parts of me were Jesus and my mom. The only two that I would ever be enough for were Jesus and my mom. I never knew that anyone could love me like they do.

Until Lee.

I remember very early on, Lee looked at me and told me that if there was any way in the world that he could make it happen, he was going to marry me. He just knew it. He knew how much he loved me before I had even started loving myself again.

It took me a while to break away all those bricks – and some still linger from time to time. But there is something about being loved wholly and completely by someone just for being you that begs for more sunshine to pour in and less need for coverage and hiding.

This week, I get to celebrate the birthday of this man that loves me unconditionally. And you know, it’s funny to me – because I have had people tell me that I am the best thing that ever happened to him. Usually, I say thank you and smile. But the truth is, he is actually the best thing that ever happened to me. And because of him, I truly am that best version of me. Which I feel like I finally started to give to him unconditionally.

Happy Birthday, Lee. I love you so very much.

Sarah (Pitson) Shrader was born and raised in Lima. She is a Lima Central Catholic and Tiffin University graduate. Sarah is a full-time working mama who enjoys writing about her somewhat crazy, always adventurous life as a mother. She lives in Bath Township with her daughters and writing inspirations, Maylie and Reagan.