Love In The Time of Quarantine

So like probably everyone these days, I’ve had a considerable amount of time to think about things, and I’ve done more than my share of navel gazing. Perhaps all of us have done a little of that.

What I’ve been thinking about the last couple days is pondering love. Perhaps not just the dictionary definition, but the actual meaning.

To quote the ancient dilemma posed by the Roxbury guys, “What is love?”

I think scripture has a few pointed thoughts on the matter. Take 1 John 4:7-12, for instance:

So God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. I don’t feel much is perfected in me. But scripture tells me it could be.

Think a little more about what love really is. From 1 Corinthians 13, we have this timeless little chunk of wisdom, heard during many–if not most–wedding ceremonies.

It occurred to me that in every place in this passage you see the word love–or where reference to love is made–Jesus also fits, and makes perfect sense, especially considering the previous passage from 1 John.

God is love, and Jesus is God.

What if we put our own names in those same places.

As in Tom is patient, Tom is kind. Tom does not envy. Tom does not boast.

If we are honest with ourselves, saying such things regarding ourselves and our own fallen natures does not ring with the same truth as it does when we speak of Jesus. That is probably true of any of us.

We aren’t perfect and we can’t be. Only one person can be.

Quarantine or no quarantine, we cannot love perfectly. But we can love Jesus, who knows a thing or two about loving, and that cannot and will not be affected by a virus.

Lord, help us to love like you. Not concerned with self, not thinking about who loves us, but who we can love. And more even Than that, who we can tell about your love?  Father, may we spread your love like a virus. May it leap from person-to-person

Airborne.

 

 

 

 

What’s Difficult

Here’s what I’ve been struggling with a bit lately. This Corona virus business and the various and quite understandable issues (social and otherwise) associated with it are beginning to weigh on me a little.

I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly social person, but this health and very potentially real economic crisis has forced me to real how wrong I was.

By that I mean almost every part of my private and professional life is very heavily dependent on social interaction, not social distancing.

What the heck does a person do with that?

I guess we have to forge a new normal. What that looks like will be different for each person. For me, church and interaction with friends and fam was the largest part of my life.

And then all that just vanished like a fart in the wind.

Yes, it’s difficult. My hope is that I, that we, can surmount the current circumstances.

Yes, I miss friends and family terribly. But it seems that virtual is—hopefully just temporarily—replacing actual.

We all have to find a way to live with that.

For my family, we have found ourselves leaning more heavily on God than ever before. Now, no longer on the brick and mortar of the church and the people within it. Rather, on the actual person of God himself.

No, it hasn’t been easy. But it is possible. That has made it possible to relate better to my wife and family and friends in the sense that it’s a lot easier to appreciate them for the people they actually are because it’s possible to see them better now that I don’t just see them as I expect to.

That probably won’t make sense to most people, but I guess it boils down to the fact that not as much is blocking my view anymore. And I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to deal with that.

It ain’t easy.

But it’s possible.

Let’s work together to figure out the details.

Not Gilded

I’ve been sitting here thinking about a few things tonight, some of which I think are true, some of which I suspect might be true, and others that are dubious at best.

What just occurred to me is that I could fill a couple phone books with what I don’t know.

The plain truth is that as fantastic as I think I am at times, at my very best I am naught but a run of the mill and fallible man.

At worst, I am a self-aggrandizing schlub who harms people sometimes, whether he means to or not. Pain one causes to others, even if it isn’t physical, cannot be excused Sufficiently to make it ok.

On the heels of that, here is what I do know without any question at all.

God loves me anyway.

I could approach him smothered in sin and garbage like Magic Shell ice cream topping and he would just reach out to me and say, “Come.” Matthew 11:28-30 told me again what I needed to know.

That’s the thing, you know. We think we have to approach him in our finest.

I feel like that myself. Like everyone else, I’m well aware of my own flaws, my own shortcomings. It sickens me to think of it. It sickens me because as I sit here tonight I am also fully aware of the measure of grace apportioned me.

And that gift came to me as I am right now, not as I wanna be.

I want to be a better man. A better husband, better friend, and Lord knows I wanna be a better father.

All good motives.

But even if I’m not, I’m beloved by God. Tonight I needed to know that, and needed to feel it even more.

Yes, Good Lord, yes, I want to be better.

But even if I don’t suddenly find myself gilded in 24k sunshine, Jesus has more regard for me than I’ll ever have for myself.

Why, God? I wonder.

What’s special about me?

I love you, he says, and his voice seems to come from nowhere and everywhere at the same time.

You don’t have to be perfect, or ready.

and gold

Tonight I was thinking about the interesting course my life has taken over its course so far. All the sudden turns, the peaks and valleys. All the drama, comedy and tragedy.

And it is true that while there were quite a few dirges given voice from time to time, there were also some grand arias.

These began with a gentle and almost tentative whisper which came in the form of an unassuming email from a humble young woman in Arizona.

And tonight I thought without doubt or question that every last thing in my life was worthwhile, because my life this day would not exist had those things not happened.

So while life may be a crucible, at the end of it comes refining.

And gold.

#Nobaddays

It’s a little past 0200, and I’ve been sitting here in the dark for hours, waiting for the sky to lighten up and for the sun to peek over the horizon. It seems like it never will.

Statistically speaking, I know that isn’t true. The sun always rises in the end, on the righteous and unrighteous alike.

How much time do we spend, really? How long do we wait for the sun to rise in our lives, literally and figuratively speaking.

You know what I’ve learned from quite a few miles of bad road in my life?

Even when it doesn’t seem like sunrise is coming, it always does.

Morning by morning, new mercies I see. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Yuma, or San Diego, Or Honolulu, or anywhere.

The sun will rise in your life.

My friend posts this hashtag a lot, and I’m only recently realizing the truth of it:

#nobaddays

I think of my wife and spectacular sons and just want to thank the Lord for my crooked path.

#nobaddays

I See

From where I sit, I can see the test item. It’s pretty cool, but I can’t talk about it or I’d have to kill you. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind killing you. I’m just too pretty for the hoosegow.

But seriously.

It bothers me a bit that I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve lost a lot of my wonder and amazement with things.

I’m not ok with that.

Am I jaded? Maybe so. Life does that to you, or it can if you let it.

I’ve just seen so many amazing things in my life, both at work and personally, in my home life. I see my older boy destroy the drums at church all the time. He’s so gifted, and good.

I want to look around and tell people to pay attention!

I watched my youngest climb out and do a combat roll. He bit his own cord! Well, maybe not that, but it was pretty amazing. And he is SO smart and doing so well in school.

He’s handsome like my wife’s family, and gets his short legs and reading abilities from me I guess.

Also very amazing.

A couple weeks ago I watched the sunrise over the desert at another test. Every second of the sunrise. And got paid a couple days later.

But sometimes, I can’t see that stuff.

I see a house payment coming, or that I need to be more present at home. More Dad and not as much…father.

I see that I can be a better husband than I have been. Or a better friend.

I need to get better at entreating God to help me do those things.

I need to be there more for these amazing people. All the time.

God, I love them.

Through Struggles and Twisted Lips

I used to think I was justified somehow in not choosing to lead a life based on the love of God for me, and the love of me for God. It made sense for most of my life–in my mind, anyway–because life had been hard at times, and still was, occasionally. Still is, actually.

And in the fullness of time, I have discovered that is true of everyone. Christian and non-Christian. Catholic and Muslim. Righteous and unrighteous alike, everyone has their struggles.

It’s not a litmus test to gauge holiness or sinfulness. It’s just true.

Even after I did finally choose to live a different sort of life it was true. Struggles come and struggles go. Not God. God stays, once you choose to follow him.

It’s just different when you don’t struggle in solitude. Paid doesn’t seem as painful when you aren’t huddled in the dark trying to ride it out. And it’s funny how God reveals himself and his love once you choose to see those things. It’s been that way for me. I think of several things that I’ve previously struggled with in the way of seeing God in, or feeling his presence.

Since my early 20’s, I’ve struggled with the way my skin looked due to struggling with psoriasis. I felt ugly and in my mind I looked ugly, too As an aside, I’ve since fallen into a medication that appears is going to help quite a bit with that. But God showed himself to me way before that revealed itself as a possible new reality.

One day I was looking at myself in the mirror and feeling kind of woebegone about things. I’d always been hesitant to go shirtless before my wife because of how I looked, or felt I looked. This day, it was as if my wife sensed my feelings and she just looked at me for a minute and then asked me if it ever hurt. She was sitting on our bed at the time and I was in the bathroom. I told her no, and a second later, she embraced me from behind and kissed me.

And she said she loved me.

Some time after that, I had my shirt off in the bedroom as I was changing and my young son wandered in. He looked at my torso and saw the patches of rough skin on my sides and my arms. He asked what they were and I told him they were sort of like owies for daddy. He sat on my bed and I sat next to him. He gently kissed my sides and my arms and said, “better now. Love you, daddy.”

He gave zero craps about my scars, and still doesn’t.

For about a year or so, my wife and I were teaching 3-5th grade Sunday school at church and I remember my face starting to feel weird. This time I thought I was having a stroke, but it turned out to be a run-in with Bell’s Palsy, and my left eye and the left side of my face kind of crapped the bed as far as facial nerves went. The left side drew up in kind of a snarl. Once I learned it wasn’t a stroke I felt a little better, but then I got to worrying that it looked pretty weird, especially since I had to wear an eye-patch some of the time. And worst of all, I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to kiss my wife, and I had no idea when it would get better.

Around the same time, my little boy one day said to me that he loved me with an eyepatch on. But I was weird. I could appreciate that. Not long after, my wife kissed me and we figured out how to make it work. Twisted lips and all, she loved me.

More recently, I had kind of an anxiety attack or breakdown or something, and having come home from work, I was laying on my bed again trying to rest a little. I started freaking out again for some reason, and my wife happened to call to check on me. My older son came in the room to ask me to talk to her and I just shook my head because I didn’t feel I could speak. I actually felt like I was having a heart attack (I wasn’t). He started to walk away and I grabbed his hand and felt moved to place it on my chest for some reason–I guess I wanted him to feel my heart. He seemed a little uncomfortable, but still there for a bit while I started losing my cool again. I don’t remember what he said after that, but it was one of the times I felt a real sensation of God’s presence and my son’s love.

My father in law and my wife got there a few minutes later and I ended up going to the ER, but it was OK in the end. I remember hugging my father in law in our driveway and he was telling me it would be OK and a few other things. Later, my mother-in-law did, too

All of those instances to say that sometimes life doesn’t feel like a blessing. Sometimes it feels like crap. Yet a blessing could be on the horizon, or maybe just hiding somewhere.

It will come, and sometimes from an unexpected place through unexpected means.

And you don’t always see love from God in your circumstance. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

It comes through bad skin and twisted lips, which can keep you from seeing the obvious.

It comes through anxiety, and warm hands.

It comes through hugs, and words from another state.

But the love of God is always there, once you choose to recognize that simple truth.