Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
These opening lines from Robert Hayden’s famous poem, “Those Winter Sundays,” speak volumes about the sacrificial nature of steadfast love. The entire poem is only five sentences long, yet it is steeped in a lifetime of reflection upon a father’s tireless and dutiful care for his family. Even on the coldest days. Even when it required a sacrifice received with indifference.
Similarly, when I look back across the perspective of my own life as a parent, through my youth and into my own childhood, I recognize the love and care that my mother and father provided. It is as if my accumulated years have increased the strength of the lens I peer through, because what I remembered then as their merely rising early, running us to lessons and ballgames, peeling potatoes, mending torn clothing, working extra jobs, making do with less, and helping me with homework, I now recognize as love, love, love, love.
I see this as the kind of lasting love that is amplified by the deep commitment of a promise and a responsibility. In other words, this is steadfast love. This is the closest we get to not only understanding the nature of God, but of living into it, as Christ asks us to do.
So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, Paul writes to the Galatians (v. 9). Don’t give up—even, as Robert Hayden concludes in his poem, you come to “know of love’s austere and lonely offices.”
How much sacrifice am I willing to make for others in my life? Do I put conditions on it?
God, strengthen me to love more people more steadfastly. Amen.
This post originally appeared in Reflections: Daily Devotional Guide volume 33.1.