A Better Definition of Love

“Christ’s love is greater than anyone can ever know, but I pray that you will be able to know that love. Then you can be filled with the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:19 (NCV)

I once heard a parent assure an anxious mother-to-be, “We don’t just love our children—we fall in love with them.”

When my children were born, I fell hard. I was besotted, like some Victorian romance heroine. I was intoxicated by their fragrance, enraptured by the feel of them in my arms. I couldn’t resist stroking those downy heads, kissing those tiny feet. Such love for them consumed me. While childbirth was challenging, loving my children was effortless.

I always assumed such passion came naturally with the baby. As an adopted child surrounded by love, I also knew it did not depend on biology. My mother was one who “never forgot for a single minute, I didn’t grow under her heart, but in it.” Mother-love was a given.

With these assurances in mind, my husband and I decided to pursue an international adoption. Laboring with documents, home visits, and other challenges, I endured my paper pregnancy with eager anticipation. I knew my efforts would be rewarded in the end.

Finally the big moment arrived. I landed in China, entered the hotel and went forward to meet my child. The setting was beautiful and perfect; my daughter, even more so. However, something was wrong—and it was with me. Where was my excitement? My happy tears? Those first moments with my child felt like a strangely awkward blind date.

Still, I did my best to mother her, trusting action to trigger emotion. But all I felt was a growing sense of panic. Could I be a decent mom while deficient in mother-love? Bewildered and terrified, I begged God to remove my doubts and fears. It took every ounce of faith I had to get us both back on the plane.

Surrounded by family and friends, I felt emptier than ever. If anything, their enthusiastic welcome only made me more miserable. I was frightened, angry and ashamed. Why would God give me a child to love, but deny the love itself? He had failed me; I was failing my child.

As months passed, I continued to act like a mother—but feel like an imposter. A year later I was still pleading with God to give me the love I was missing.
The love I needed.
The love I deserved.

His response shocked me.

“You don’t need more love—you just need to stop measuring the wrong kind.”


“Pam, you are waiting on the love you want—that makes you feel good. I never promised that. I called you to love her in the way that blesses her and honors me—and you are doing that already.”

I had it all wrong. The problem was not my daughter, or me, or even God—but my limited definition of love. To deepen love, I needed to broaden my understanding of it.

God commands us to agapeo love. Such love is defined as “the active love of God for his Son and his people, and the active love his people are to have for God, each other and even enemies.”

God’s love is emotion in action. A noun and a verb. In order to be fully felt, it must be fully lived.

I had always known an effortless love—the kind that asked simply to be enjoyed. But God offered something more precious and more costly. When he gave me this child, he gave me an opportunity to love as he did.

By God’s definition, my love for my daughter wasn’t lacking in any way. In fact, it was more than enough.

Enough to leave my family behind and fly halfway around the world to get her.
Enough to push past fear, get on the plane and bring her home.
Enough to stand before the judge on adoption day and promise to be her family forever.

I had loved my daughter all along—with every kiss, every hug, every tender word. There was never a moment I didn’t love her. As I continue to love her with God’s love, I know there never will be.

“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:12-13 (NLT)

Read more from Pam at www.pamrichardswatts.com