Archive for August, 2022

11
Aug
22

Mature Love

Love is love is love

Love – I think we can all agree – is pretty danged awesome.

You and I are probably also in agreement about the idea that there are different KINDS of love. Perhaps “…different EXPRESSIONS of love,” would be a better way to say that.

For example, there is the giddy, exploding fireworks, breathless, fixated kind of young love. You know… the kind that looks an awful lot like a dangerous addiction. 

Eros is what the Greeks call this expression of love.

Then there is the love that describes the way I love my brothers and my sister. It is fierce. It is tender… (sometimes). It is VERY close to unconditional. It brings great joy. At the same time, it is utterly asexual. The Greek word for this expression of love is filios.

If you have attended this seminar before, you know that the next category goes by the Greek name agapeAgape is traditionally described as perfect, self-sacrificing, godly love. The love Jesus demonstrated for all of us from the cross, for example.

But we are going to put a pin in AGAPE for just a second if that’s OK. I promise we will come back to it a little later.

The category I want to throw out there next is MATURE love. I’m not sure what the Greek word for this is, but I’m equally sure there is one. 

This is the kind of love that starts out with eros… moves on to hanging out for a while to see where this thing goes… morphs into deciding to exchange sacred vows and promising lifelong commitment, and finally leads to riding the crazy roller-coaster of “doing life together,” through all the ups, downs, hair-pin turns, dry, dull patches, dead-ends, and fiery crashes you typically experience along the way.

I have experienced mature love in my life. Twice, in fact. The first time for 20-some years. This time the count stands at 22 years. 

If you know about mature love, you know it takes work. You have discovered – as I did, the hard way – that there is no such thing in mature love as, “… putting this thing on cruise control and coasting the rest of the way in.”

Relationships take constant attention and effort. There is no point at which they drive themselves.

And while I have been talking entirely about the HUMAN journey of love, I want to pose a bit of an odd question here… mainly for the sake of sparking a conversation. 

That question is: ARE THERE ANY ANALOGS BETWEEN THE HUMAN-TO-HUMAN EXPERIENCE OF MATURE LOVE AND THE EXPERIENCE OF MATURE LOVE BETWEEN A PERSON AND GOD?

Yes. On the one hand, the question is totally ridiculous. It’s ridiculous because we know that God ALWAYSloves perfectly. Humans, on the other hand, ALWAYS love imperfectly. In the human-to-human relationship, both parties are (ideally) learning and growing in their capacity to love. In the human-God relationship, it is only WE who need to grow and mature. God has already arrived at mature, loving perfection.

So yes. Silly question.

Yet it nags at me. 

Based on some experience and some observation, I have learned a few things along the way about the qualities of mature human love. For example, I’ve learned that the word “trivial” gradually recedes from your vocabulary. In a mature relationship, you come to realize just how much things matter. A word… a gesture… a sigh… a neglected coffee cup. Something you might have breezed by and ignored in another time now begins to OOZE with significance. 

I’ve seen that couples who have known one another for a long time start to “tune in” more keenly to one another, anticipating each other’s thoughts and feelings.

The same thing happens – I believe – as we mature in our relationship with God. We begin making more of a practice of tuning in to the “still, small voice.” We move from seeing God’s handiwork in its broadest brush strokes (like the Grand Canyon or the Rocky Mountains) to seeing it in the smallest, like, “… the whiteness of a washed pocket handkerchief,” to quote D.H. Lawrence. 

God’s presence and activity turn up EVERYWHERE we look. We realize we can’t “… flee from your presence,”as the Psalmist once wrote…

… But we also realize we don’t want to.

So, I will close by asking: am I crazy? Is it completely off base to try and find similarities between a mature HUMAN-TO-HUMAN love and a mature HUMAN-TO-GOD love? 

And if you DON’T think this is crazy, what are some other similarities you see in these two relationships?

Abundant blessings;

02
Aug
22

Perspective Tune-up

I’ve decided: I hate quarantine.

Since receiving a positive COVID diagnosis over a week ago, I have been in a state of doctor-ordered quarantine here in my home. That has meant sleeping in the upstairs guest bedroom, not coming close to, touching – let alone kissing – Joan, and wearing that stupid N95 mask ALL THE TIME. 

Many of you have experienced this and know exactly what I am talking about. Some of you have probably even gone through much more severe COVID journeys than mine, involving hospitals, ventilators, and questions of life or death.  

And most of you – I’m pretty sure – have done it with a lot less whining about it.

All things considered though; this experience has not been that bad. 

Don’t get me wrong; the first three days were rough. But because I am double-vaxxed and boosted, the main symptoms went away on the fourth day, leaving me feeling almost back to normal. Isolated and bored, yes. But overall feeling well. In fact, I’ve felt well enough to hop on my bike and go on long rides both yesterday and the day before. 

No… quarantine isn’t any fun. But when I start feeling like it is time to convene a meeting of Russell’s Private Pity Party, I pick up the Bible and start reading a little from Paul. As you might recall, Paul had a bit of a “quarantine” thing going on there in the beginning of his letter to the church at Philippi. Right there in the first chapter we read these words; “I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually resulted in the progress of the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ…” (Philippians 1:12-13 NRSVU). 

Of course, the phrase, “… what has happened to me…” there refers to being thrown in jail for his public preaching about Jesus. And instead of sitting there in that cell and whining about the cruel nature of his situation, Paul instead focused on the OPPORTUNITY it presented him! 

Crazy, eh?

Then there is that little passage in 2 Corinthians where Paul momentarily goes out of his mind – his words, not mine – and starts listing all of the CRAP he’s had to endure in order to carry out his evangelical mission. 

Remember that passage? You can find it in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28. But to save your valuable time, I will reprint it here: “Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches.”

I also found ministry to be a VERY rugged profession. But I honestly don’t think I can recall ever being beaten with rods or stoned. 

My point is this: ALL of us… no matter what we are going through… can benefit from a “perspective check” now and then. That “check” is what these words from Paul provided for me.

Speaking personally, I will confess the ease with which MY momentary reality can become THE universal reality… at least in my head. My worldview narrows to ME and the two-foot bubble of life surrounding me. Nothing outside that bubble matters.

But the truth is, my reality is nothing more than a decision I made about how this current situation is going to affect me. Either I will see it as a unique kind of OPPORTUNITY I’ve been handed (Paul style), or I’ll see it as some kind of horrible injustice I’ve been saddled with. 

So, I will decide to use the gift of this quarantine time to catch up on my fiction reading, learn a few new songs on the guitar, ride my bike (weather permitting, of course), and as a time to take the opportunity to get my perspective tuned up …

… which it needs only about once every three minutes.

Abundant blessings;




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