For some strange reason, the phrase “loving well” keeps popping up for me lately. Just in the last few days, a writer I deeply respect used it in a blog post, my pastor prayed for it in a prayer service, and a friend wished for it in a conversation.
So I find myself wondering: what distinguishes loving well from – well, “just” loving?
As I try to nail down the distinction, I think of the people in my life who I would say love well and I ask myself, “What makes him/her come to mind?”
Yes, they put others’ needs above their own, certainly they allow themselves to be vulnerable in relationships, and no doubt they consistently strive to communicate clearly.
Do you remember junior high? Sorry, I know that was a painful question. We all remember those days (and not necessarily in a good way).
Here’s the thing: Where my house is located, I have a front row seat to the on-going pre-teen drama at the junior high bus stop . . . and frequent flashbacks of my own to that dreadful era:
How could I forget the kid with the unfortunate first name of Orville? No doubt his parents intended to honor some beloved relative by giving him that name. But Orville? He paid dearly for his parents’ choice to hang that one on him.
There was the overly tall, awkward guy everyone in the seventh grade called “Slow Monroe” and then snickered as though he couldn’t hear them. I hope he ended up a CEO somewhere.
I still remember Ellen in Mr. Hunter’s math class. She used too much Coppertone QT over the weekend and came to school with her face orange. Even the teacher had a field day at her expense. I’m not sure she ever lived it down.
Some days are just hard. Then another one comes along just like it. Then another. And before you know it, they’re stringing together like the links of a heavy chain and you’re dragging the weight around, exhausted and discouraged and maybe a little (or a lot) angry at the unfairness of it all.
When I start to feel that heaviness, I find myself waking up well before daybreak and whispering, “God, please let today be better”. It isn’t a plea grounded in hope, as in I know God is with me and will make all things work together for good if only I will believe. No, usually it’s more of a desperate, I give up, I’m drowning here. I’m at Your mercy.
It’s not a time I need a sermon or a theological explanation about God’s grand designs for humanity and what a small part of it all my tiny life is. It’s true the big picture of human history is infinitely vast and knowable only to an all-powerful God. And it’s true I can trust Him to take care of me in the larger context of eternity.
People are complicated. I’m sure that’s not news to you.
I think about my own life and the image I always try to project: polished, confident, intelligent. You know the drill.
But I’m an iceberg and so are you.
There’s what we let other people see, and then there are all those other layers and dimensions we keep below the surface: our past, our weaknesses, our fears. To be seen as who we aspire to be requires that those aspects of who we are remain hidden. But all that other “stuff” is still there below the surface.
Being in relationship with each other – unless we keep it strictly superficial – is going to be tricky, maybe even dangerous. We’re sure to bump up against each other and those layers we didn’t know were there for others will bruise us, while ours will bloody them.
The loss of comedic great Robin Williams this week really drove this point home to me. Here was a guy who brought so much joy and laughter to his audiences and seemed to always have a funny retort and positive outlook.
I think I could have been friends with him if our worlds had intersected in some way. No doubt I am not alone in that. He was a rare presence.
I’m not kidding when I say there was a glow in the room. My neighbors had invited my daughter and me over to meet their new grandchild – their long awaited, breathlessly anticipated, deeply adored grandchild. They knew how much we had been looking forward to meeting this little one and it was going to work out perfectly. Their daughter and son-in-law would be there with the baby all afternoon. I could hardly contain my excitement.
She was everything we thought she would be and more. Beautiful, angelic, perfect. That is the absolute truth. But what impressed me even more than the preciousness of this child Continue reading When the Circle Widens→
For much of my Christian life, I believed I needed to “pray the answers”. My prayers, I thought, should include suggestions for God, ways He could answer my requests. I’d begin with, “If it could be your will, God, would you please ___________,” and then I’d fill in the blank with ideas for how God might respond.
I don’t think I fell into that pattern because I really thought God needed my input; I think it was a way of giving myself a kind of metric so I could know my prayers had been answered.
If things resolved the way I had prayed they would, then God had met my expectations and I was assured once more that yes, God answers prayer.
Do you know how much energy I expend trying to figure out why some people do and act the way they do? How hard I try to figure out the best way to relate to certain individuals so they either respond in the way I think is appropriate… or at least don’t insult me?
With some, I struggle just to figure out how I can get them to flat leave me alone.
I’m guessing you spend a fair amount of energy, too, trying to balance your interactions with other people, determining how best to communicate, convince . . . or simply not end up in conflict with them. Continue reading A solid strategy … not a bad word→
Last May I joined a vibrant, growing church in the Chicago suburbs, one very different from the mega-church I had served in for the prior 25 years.
The pastoral staff at my new church is young (by that I mean, the lead pastor is in his early 30s, and he’s the oldest of the bunch). They are all filled with passion, energy, and Godly wisdom that inspires me every time I interact with them. Theirs is the generation taking the Church into the next grand chapter and it’s crazy exciting to be a part of it.