Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Eight Billion Loves

Sometimes, when I tell stories of all the amazing opportunities that I've had in life and some of the coolest things I've done (there are a lot of them), others look at me like I must be schizophrenic or something. In a world that pressures its people to specialize - to become good at one thing and to invest their lives in one direction - how does someone even end up with such a diverse portfolio? How do you get so many crazy stories? 

I'll admit sometimes, it looks indecisive. Sometimes, it looks unstable. Sometimes, it looks like I just follow whatever current is going to carry me for awhile. Sometimes, it looks like I don't have any plan for my own life, no dreams, no desires, no goals. And some of that's probably fair. I never grew up dreaming of any one thing I wanted to be, so it's hard sometimes for me to settle into something. 

But the bigger truth is this: it kind of is one thing. It's love. 

Everywhere I've been in life, I've followed love there. Everything I've done has been an act of some kind of love. The funny thing about love is that it doesn't work the way this world says things ought to work. When you set your life on love as that one thing you want to excel at, you find that you all of a sudden become a million different things. Maybe as many as eight billion. 

Because love is funny that way; it's not its own thing. You can't separate love from its circumstances and cut it open in a lab and figure out what it is. Love always dwells in relationship, and that means it cannot be quantified or qualified without two engaged parties who are shaping what it is. 

Anyone who has kids understands this. 

I've got four kids in my life. Four amazing kids who are a steadfast part of my existence, and each one of them is different. Each one of them requires a different kind of love. One of them likes stupid jokes, so when we're together, we try to just get each other rolling. One of them likes to have the dog around, so we brush hands over the back of the dog's head and just talk about what life is like. One of them is really into science and math and weather, so we explore the universe together. One of them is currently in a toy train phase, so we might sit in the floor and build a train track together. 

The same is true with our adult friends. I have a friend who loves the Bible and is hungry to learn as much about it as she can, so I share with her the devotional magazines that have started coming in the mail. Another friend is through-and-through a dog person, so we swap stories of our furry loved ones. Another friend carries the same heavy weight of social injustice as I do, so we mourn together and brainstorm ways to help others. A neighbor likes working on stuff with his hands, so we both know where every tool in his garage is. 

Now, if you look at just the actions in any of these stories, you get that sense of whiplash that the world gets looking at someone who loves. I mean, who has a story that includes weather science and toy trains and welding and small engine repair and Bible study and benevolence? Can't you just make up your mind and do one thing? Can't you just step out and identify yourself and tell this world who you are by being something, anything, consistent? 

But I am. I am love. 

And I have always said, no matter what I'm doing, that if I have to learn something new to love someone better, then teach me. I'm in. 

This is the kind of life we ought to be living as Christians. This is the kind of crazy love God calls us to. A love that diversifies our portfolio. A love that doesn't stay in our own little box. A love that's built not just out of our own heart, but out of every unique relationship that we form with others. 

Paul said, I have become all things to all people so that I might win some of them. And that's it. That's the thing. We say that it's impractical, and it is. We say that it's impossible, and in some ways, it is. Too many who try to become all things end up becoming nothing at all because they let love sweep them away instead of grounding them. They lose the sense of who they are because they let others define them. 

That's not the kind of love we're talking about here. We're talking a love that lets others make you bigger. That lets others expand upon who you are. That lets other sharpen your love, not dull it. We're talking about a love so firmly grounded that it gives freely of itself without fear of becoming lost or becoming lesser. 

When you have that kind of love, your one thing turns out to be more than eight billion - one unique thing for as many human beings as are on this earth, as many other lives as you have opportunity to come into contact with. And for someone like me, I'd say it's even more than that...because there are a lot of dogs, too. 

Sometimes, I look at my life the way the world does. I've had a lot of crazy opportunities and blessed experiences that don't look like they fit together at all. It looks a little schizophrenic, if we're being honest - a little like I don't know what I want to do with my life. 

But I do. 

I want to love the way that Jesus loved. 

I want to love like the Man who stood in the Temple one day and broke bread on a mountain the next and walked on water the following Tuesday and touched lepers and washed feet and walked down a dirt road and fished in the sea and defended everyone but Himself. 

How about you? 

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