Love With A Capital L

A journey towards living an inspired life of love in the modern world

Pet Sounds, Side 2, Track 4 — June 10, 2022

Pet Sounds, Side 2, Track 4

The Beach Boys album Pet Sounds has a track called, “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times,” and I feel like that more and more every day.

The hook is just a repeated line, “Sometimes I feel very sad.” No kidding, baby. I’m pretty sure if you live and breathe, you have to. It’s practically a requirement for modern living. War. Lies. Manipulation. Violence. Abuse. Rage. Pain. Guns and the broken hearts that pull the triggers.

[Just as far as that goes. I think if we could have conversations without our political ideologies, we would all totally agree. Firearms are too easy to get without proper training and education. The people killing others are wounded and in desperate need of help. Both sides are totally right. If we could only see each other, address those who are walking warning signs of psychological damage, and set up some reasonable obstacles to immediate, boundary-less procurement of instruments of death, then maybe we could stop chanting our empty mantra of “thoughts and prayers” so often. I want that, and I believe you do, too. And so does your neighbor and the Speaker of the House and the President of the NRA.]

Anyway. Sometimes I feel very sad. And every day, it seems like there are 2 new arrows. That’s ok, I suppose. We choose. And I choose to listen and engage. I choose to be the one who walks alongside. I choose to help you carry. Again, probably you are, too.

If you’ve been here long enough, (and maybe just today), you are aware that I happen to believe more connects us than separates. I believe that we are mostly trustworthy and kind, helpful and loving. Of course, I also recognize that we are capable of unimaginable horror. My neighbor is blind and 99 out of 100 of us will help him find his way, and 1 will push him down. But would that 1 push him down if he/she was listened to and cared for? Maybe. But maybe not.

The song starts, “I keep lookin’ for a place to fit in. Where I can speak my mind. And I’ve been tryin’ hard to find the people. That I won’t leave behind.” We’re all looking for that, aren’t we? What if we find it? Would an 18 year old with a community around him shoot up an elementary school. What if he fit in? What if he found his people?

Brian Wilson said, about the song, “It’s about a guy who was crying because he thought he was too advanced, and that he’d eventually have to leave people behind. All my friends thought I was crazy to do Pet Sounds.” I don’t think I’m too advanced, and I’m not creating one of the greatest albums of all time. I just think the state of my heart (soft and in perfect working order) makes these days, taking so many arrows & wrecking balls, pretty hard to take. I don’t think I’m alone, though. I think Brian Wilson was wrong, he didn’t have to eventually leave people behind. He decided that for everyone in his life. We can’t make the same misguided decision anymore.

So. Sometimes I feel very sad. That’s all.

Inertia — April 28, 2022

Inertia

These last few weeks, I’ve been a little… Well, it’s a little like running on a treadmill. More of a walk than a run, actually. The late winter months are usually pretty hard on my spirit, so recently I’ve made allowance for this heart sickness. A friend said last week in a contemplative retreat, “be excessively gentle with yourself,” and that’s what I’m doing.

Since I began this post last week – which was supposed to be about inertia and how if I get up and start working immediately, or jump out of bed, get dressed and go to the gym before my body can even argue, that seems to snowball for the rest of the day. And the opposite. If I come downstairs and sit down and watch an episode of Catfish first, it’s exponentially more difficult to get up and go. And it gets harder and harder the more things get between stagnation and movement. Right? It’s this way for all of us because of the simple concept of inertia: and object in motion tends to stay in motion and and object at rest tends to stay at rest.

Either of these is ok. I place no judgment on rest and no pride in motion, like we can easily do. I am being excessively gentle with myself.

But as last week’s post runs into late this week, my body is more and more achy and sore, my mind more and more dull, and my soul heavier and heavier, I wonder if this is simple inertia. Not that I’d have any idea what else it could be. Maybe I’m still wheeling this low grade illness around mindlessly like luggage at an airport.

Yesterday, at the Target, I spent an unreasonable amount of time scouring the supplements for anything that would address my non-specific symptoms. Of course, non-specificity breeds non-specificity, so that was obviously unsuccessful. As if there would be a bottle that said, “For General Blah.” Maybe there is, there seems to be bottles for everything else, but if there was, I’m not sure I’d take it. If they can’t tell me clearly what it’s for, then…

I still do the things I do, I’m still writing this post, lifting weights (though they are significant;y lighter weights than 2 months ago), still laugh easy, still sit outside and watch high school baseball games in the frigid cold. I am being excessively gentle with myself.

You know one of the most important things I’ve learned? In the past, I’d cancel appointments and hide away, but I don’t do that anymore, and that helps a lot. The Bible says it’s “not good” for us to be alone, and that’s really true. I agree that people are the worst, but people are also the absolute best. (A cool thing is that a very good friend is likely concerned and texting me as she reads these words. So to her: I am fine, just a little non-specific blah. Everyone should have beautiful friends like I do.) So I’ll keep connecting and wheeling this baggage around, driving the principle of inertia (or let it drive me). Maybe the low grade will fade imperceptibly, little by little, until it disappears altogether. Probably.

I’ll keep being excessively gentle with myself and I hope you are, too.

Not Love — February 22, 2022

Not Love

There was a Catfish on this morning that ended with the catfishing couple in each other’s arms, the rare happy ending. Only as I was watching, it didn’t feel happy at all. The person answered the gazillion-dollar question of “Why?” with, “I didn’t want her to leave,” which sounds sort of sweet and romantic.

At the end of Guardians Of The Galaxy, Rocket (the raccoon) asks the Nova Corps officer, “What if I see something that I want to take, and it belongs to someone else?” The officer (played by the always awesome John C. Reilly): “Well, you will be arrested.” Rocket pushes, “But what if I want it more than the person who has it?” John C. Reilly: “Still illegal.” Rocket: “That doesn’t follow. No, I want it more, sir. Do you understand?” This sounds exactly like this Catfish. I want it, so I’ll do whatever I have to do to have it.

She said, “I didn’t want her to leave,” and figured that was a terrific reason to misrepresent herself. But what about the other? Who cares??? The only concern was the Catfish and her own interests. She, like Rocket, saw something she wanted to take.

Saturday night, the Angel and I watched the Tinder Swindler on Netflix. This documentary detailed the story of a guy who lied and lied and lied to everyone he could possibly lie to, creating an intricate pyramid scheme. He’d manipulate one woman, “steal” her money to pay for another woman, using her money to pay for another woman, and on and on. He lived this extravagant globe-hopping lifestyle bankrolled by women all over the world that he caught on matching app Tinder.

It was impossible to watch the doc and feel any other way than this “Simon” was a monster. (Now, I say impossible, but that’s not entirely true. There were plenty of embarrassing trolls who took to the internet to blame the women!!! Whatever.) But the Catfish played as touching and beautiful, love persevering against all odds. Almost like the lies proved how real the emotions were, the depth of the facade evidence of the depth of the hearts involved. I wonder what the difference was, other than the directors & film editors.

The scene in Guardians was comedy, the Tinder Swindler was tragedy, and Catfish was romance, but all were different versions of Rocket, hopelessly selfish and single-minded in achieving the desired item (even if the item is a human being). All based on one simple precept: If I want it more, I should have it.

This is not romance. This is not love, and in fact bears little resemblance to actual love. Love asks, and in the asking, releases control and gives it to the other, gives the other the power to say yes…or to say no. Love does not take, either by force or deception. This town isn’t big enough for manipulation and respect. Control and love cannot coexist, no matter what the soundtrack is, and I’m pretty sure we should stop pretending they do.

The Worst Valentine’s Day — February 15, 2022

The Worst Valentine’s Day

There are a lot of drawbacks to being married to me, the fact that I’m writing about a pretty terrible Valentine’s Day on the internet isn’t even close to the biggest. But it isn’t great.

The Angel and I have been together for 24ish years, and in the course of those 24ish years, yesterday was The Worst Valentine’s Day we’ve had. (Maybe it’s important to say that I’m not the best at caring about greeting card holidays, but I do love LOVE and I do love my wife, so I’ll participate;)

We often talk about youth sports in this space. Over the years, all of us of a certain age has noticed a trend that we’ll call the Sportscenter-ification of the games. What I mean is that almost nobody watches entire games, we watch the highlights on Sportscenter or YouTube or forwarded GIFs. I coach baseball for boys who have very little knowledge and/or perspective of a game. These kids have no appreciation for the ups & downs, the slow parts, and fundamentals are a completely lost art (I KNOW I sound like everybody’s dad, talking about how it was “when I was young,” and that hurts me a little. Anyway, I am somebody’s dad.) We’ve been conditioned to think a game is all dunks and home runs.

Our culture suffers from this same malady. For instance, we think marriage is the same; all highlights and clip packages, candles, bubble baths, one long music montage set to some bouncy love song. And when it’s not, we think we’re broken. That the love is gone. That we’re doing something wrong. That it’s not how it’s supposed to be.

The thing is, that whole Sportscenter-ification is a lie. Marriage is time outs and bunts and bounce passes. It’s crappy Valentine’s days and wonderful random Thursdays. Life, too. It’s not all mountain tops, it’s Monday mornings, too.

The Church has a liturgical year. Yes, there is Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, and Easter. But there’s also the rest, which is called Ordinary Time. That’s perfect, right? Ordinary Time. We go to work, change diapers, watch tv, eat in the car. Not all of our workouts are personal records, sometimes we’re tired and all we can do is get there at all.

It’s not broken. We’re not broken. We’re not doing anything wrong. I wrote a card to my wife yesterday that spelled out how overwhelming and wonderful it is that after 24 years, our relationship is so much better than it was on our wedding day. And that’s absolutely true. Kissing her slow and soft still gives me butterflies, it’s still shocking that I get to be the one that gets to do it. We make dinner together, make the bed together, change our bunny’s litter box and sit next to each other complaining about our sore backs in bleachers at basketball games. Of course, there are also fireworks and game winning half court shots and championships.

Sometimes the bands/singers on the radio are horrible, sometimes they’re just ok. It’s not always the Greatest, it’s not always Morrissey. And the songs aren’t always There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. And it’s a crazy delusion to think they would be.

The Angel & I communicate very very very well, (even so far as to discuss how the wheels fell off on our Valentine’s Day – it’s not high maintenance, it’s real, and it’s really important). We talk a lot, laugh and cry together, trust each other, find beauty in every day, love each other to the moooon even when things aren’t going perfectly. We advance the runner, catch fly balls, make our free throws and rebound. Teams that do those things win, marriages that do those things never break, and lives built on that are full and awesome, even when they aren’t.

Happy (best, worst, and everything in between) Valentine’s Day, everyone.

Like a Drip, Drip, Drip That’ll Never Stop — February 7, 2022

Like a Drip, Drip, Drip That’ll Never Stop

Well, I watched the new Disney animated film Encanto last weekend. I can’t say that I really wanted to, but the Angel did, and I very much like the Angel and she watches A LOT of superhero movies with me, so I watched Encanto. (Also, I usually cry while these new Disney/Pixar movies take me apart – let’s not even talk about Up or Inside Out.)

So anyway, it was very good. It wasn’t Frozen good, but it was very good. What I found exceptional was how open & honest it was about difficult emotions, struggles, image-making, expectations, inadequacy, and insecurity. I know, I know, these subjects are often there, but they’re hidden a little, like Easter eggs for parents, so when we’re crying, the kids aren’t sure exactly why.

In Encanto, there’s an older sister whose gift is physical strength. She sings a song called “Surface Pressure” that we need to talk about.

“I’m the strong one, I’m not nervous. I’m as tough as the crust of the earth is. I move mountains, I move churches. And I glow ’cause I know what my worth is. I don’t ask how hard the work is. Got a rough indestructible surface. Diamonds and platinum, I find ’em, I flatten ’em. I take what I’m handed, I break what’s demanding.” This is the first verse and it’s as disingenuous as we are. It’s full of posturing. It’s full of the biggest mountain of lies. It’s you & me and everyone we see. Is Encanto a documentary?

It’s not, because she continues, “But Under the surface. I feel berserk as a tightrope walker in a three-ring circus. Under the surface. Was Hercules ever like “Yo, I don’t wanna fight Cerberus”? Under the surface. I’m pretty sure I’m worthless if I can’t be of service. A flaw or a crack. The straw in the stack That breaks the camel’s back. What breaks the camel’s back? It’s Pressure like a drip, drip, drip that’ll never stop, whoa. Pressure that’ll tip, tip, tip ’till you just go pop, whoa.” Wow, right? If I told you how many times I have felt exactly this way. I’m pretty sure I’m worthless if I can’t be of service? This was supposed to be a kids movie with singing and dancing about a house that’s alive. Drip, drip, drip.

Listen to these questions, through the song: “Who am I if I can’t run with the ball?…Who am I if I can’t carry it all?…I think about my purpose, can I somehow preserve this?…If I could shake the crushing weight of expectations, Would that free some room up for joy Or relaxation, or simple pleasure?…Who am I if I don’t have what it takes?”

Who am I? Am I more than my performance, more than these expectations? What if I can’t carry it all? I think about all of the men I know, the dads, husbands, threatening to buckle under all of this weight. (I know it’s the women, too, I just happen to relate to the men because I’m, you know, a man. I see the women. I see the pressure to be everything to everyone, gorgeous, fit, smart, independent, strong, funny, perfect moms and CEOs and lovers and yogis, to shoulder more and more responsibility, more and more stress, more and more and more.)

Of course it’s too much. This is a kids movie, so I think of the children in schools, saddled with the same amount of uncontrollable, overwhelming pressure. I picture the trash compactor scene in Star Wars, ever contracting to smush the heroes, but this isn’t a movie and R2-D2 isn’t going to stop it just in time. I think we have to stop this, to bring this hamster wheel to a screeching halt.

Who am I if I can’t carry it all? Maybe I was never supposed to carry it all in the first place. Maybe we weren’t supposed to run with the ball. Maybe what we think it “takes” was a red herring all along and it doesn’t and never did matter if we have it.

Encanto was very good, but it hit a little too close to home. I guess it needs to, right? Otherwise we will keep on ignoring the rising heat, like lobsters in a pot. It’s a good thing the songs were so catchy.

Chocolate Bunnies — January 28, 2022

Chocolate Bunnies

Around Easter, there are these big chocolate bunnies that look amazing, you break into the packaging, take a bite and only then realize that chocolate rabbit is only a chocolate shell. You expect a thick, rich block of yummy deliciousness but they’re completely hollow inside. Still tasty but ultimately empty.

This morning, about 20 minutes ago, I finished The Queen Of Versailles, a documentary on Amazon Prime by Lauren Greenfield (I wrote a previous post about her doc Generation Wealth). This Lauren Greenfield is a genius. Anyway, it’s about an obscenely wealthy time-share businessman, his success, family and their lives. It’s also about an obscenely wealthy time-share businessman losing everything. The Queen of the title is his wife, Jackie. I finished it this morning because when I started it days ago, I had to turn it off a half-way through believing it was simply a garden variety picture of grotesque excess and sometimes that sort of superficiality just doesn’t go down smoothly. I persevered mostly because of Lauren Greenfield, and as the crash was beginnings, I was interested in how each of them (he, she, too many children, employees, etc) would respond to the economic catastrophe.

I loved Jackie, a little surprisingly. She appeared to handle everything with class and grace, leaned into her marriage and family. She gave money (that was increasingly disappearing) to a high school friend who was facing foreclosure. She began a thrift store to support & serve her community. She showed herself a beautifully devoted, faithful wife to a man who was moving in the polar opposite direction in every way. I appreciated her more and more, even as she continued her Botox wearing a ridiculous fur coat in the kitchen complaining about not being able to afford a watch.

The businessman who was so magnanimous, so self-satisfied, so arrogant as the film started unraveled quickly. In a heartbreaking moment, he said, “Nothing makes me happy anymore.”

I posted yesterday on image-making. I often post on my love of Catfish. This is certainly a there, isn’t it?

You know, in seminary, as I started to study the Bible and write a million papers, I was knocked down by a BIG theme I hadn’t noticed. I hadn’t believed in God for (what is now) half of my life because I saw it as a hypocritical exercise in superficial masquerade. Christians looked the same, perfectly behaved with perfect teeth and hair. Maybe I still see it that way, but the Bible sure isn’t. The Big Theme was, on every page, honesty. Nothing was left out, people argued, raged, lied, doubted, celebrated, danced, had sex, fought, sang, made the worst decisions, despaired, hoped, and loved. It was everything about being human, it was everything about the movies and art that I loved most, real and genuine.

But a lot of us (and lots of parts of us) are like chocolate bunnies. We construct elaborate “realities” based on very little, shells with hollow insides. When did we decide we were nothing more than what we had, or that who we actually were just wasn’t enough? When did we decide to focus on the exterior while just behind the door was either unknown or in various states of disrepair.

When COVID forced us to stay home, I wondered what we’d find. Without any images to convey, would we find our homes and families a sweet sacred space? Or would we be forced to face the emptiness? It’s hard to tell, we still had images to convey on social media.

Nothing made this guy happy, in a house full of his children, and a wife who brought dinner to his office and was harshly sent away without the kiss she asked for. What he could have found was a wife who truly didn’t care about his money, loved him for him, and a healthy family who desperately needed his affection and resilience to steer them through a storm. He could have showed them how to get back up and stand. He could have held hands on long walks and danced to loud music in a downsized kitchen. He could have done anything else. He chose to only find his value in his assets and net worth, chose to find a person who only loved himself for his money.

I understand the crushing fear of not being able to provide. When we were homeless after a flood washed away everything we owned, I couldn’t sleep, had a constant jackhammer of a headache, sickening anxiety, wanted nothing more than to run and hide. I understand the pressure of provision.

But we do have choices. We do have questions to answer about who we really are. Are we chocolate bunnies, fake profiles, P&L statements, nameplates, corner offices, the brand of jeans we wear? Or are we something else, something much better that doesn’t fade or disappear? Sure we crack, sometimes we break, but then what? When it rains, are we the sort that erodes or that sings at the top of our lungs?

I want to be one who sings, but I don’t want to sing alone. I want to be a part of an army of millions and millions of singers, dancers, artists, and lovers who are tired of chocolate bunnies.

Fueled By An Image Of Me — January 27, 2022

Fueled By An Image Of Me

There’s a fantastic line in the song ‘Disillusion’ by Badly Drawn Boy on The Hour of Bewilderbeast album: “Seems you created your own illusion fueled by an image of me.” I wrote it down several months ago in a draft here to remember. Right about that time a person re-entered my life and this lyric was oddly appropriate, as she was operating on outdated information. It seemed she had created her own illusion fueled by an image of me that was no longer me, probably was never me, but an image that would make it impossible to move forward.

And that happens, right? There are people who decide who you are based on who you were or what you do or what they are or what they do or what they heard. It is frustrating and sad. I’m not sure if the image was one I couldn’t live up to, or if the image was too low and created a watching/waiting situation, where any hint would prove the image “true,” even if it isn’t. Either way, it was a straitjacket from which I couldn’t escape and the relationship imploded soon enough. A good thing, to be sure.

The post, then, was supposed to be about others placing images and illusions and expectations on our shoulders that make it nearly impossible to transcend. But lately it’s transmogrified into the impossibly transcended images, illusions & expectations we heap on our own heads. Cages built with our own hands. Boxes we’ve constructed and tightly locked and at the same time, hold the keys to our own emancipation.

I don’t care very much about what this draft was supposed to be. The amount of control I have over what others think, what images others hold, is, in the very best case scenario, zero. So yes, frustrating and sad, but pointless to spend much time or energy trying to manage. Yet we do, and that’s where our own carefully crafted images come into play.

Who does he/she need me to be? But it’s not just that simple, is it? Who does he/she need me to be here, now, in this situation? Or how about now, in this one? It’s a sliding scale that never stops sliding. That is true oppression, yoked to an ever changing target, shape-shifting with the day and moment, until we are totally lost.

I spent too much time searching for me as I was also searching for the idea of “me” that would please every single person on earth. Once I got away from “me” for a little while, I could consider who this other me was. It is a long process. Oh baby, it’s a long process. But it does happen, in glimpses and flashes. Hard, absolutely necessary work. The world doesn’t need more superficiality or inauthentic facades. The world needs more you’s and me’s and waaaaay less “you’s” and “me’s.” So maybe we could let these things float away like balloons into the sky and show up, completely present and completely us. I bet we will find us to be wonderful.

Perfect — December 17, 2021

Perfect

In my last post, about youth basketball, I wrote: “Incidentally, what keeps me up at night is what I may have done to instill this perfectionism in him. I tried to encourage risk, value failure, while celebrating each win. I never withheld my affection or punished a loss, always gave a soft place to land, always threw my arms around him no matter the game/test result. Maybe I’ll never know. Maybe nothing.”

(I wonder how long I can call them “youth” sports. They are in high school, they are teenagers. They are still youths, but when does that stop and I can safely just call this “sports?” The summer after graduation? College?)

Anyway. While thinking about that paragraph, well… Have you ever been to the eye doctor? You know when you’re sitting behind that Clockwork Orange-esque device and it’s clicking and the letters either come into focus or quickly blur? This paragraph was the click where the G’s and Q’s become striking in their clarity.

What keeps me up at night is what I may have done to instill this perfectionism in him. What keeps me up at night is what I may have done wrong. What keeps me up at night is what I may not have done perfectly and how, ultimately, everything everywhere that happens is mine to control. I wonder where he would’ve possibly gotten the notion that he had to be perfect.

I know where this unhealthy perspective comes from, at least for me. I wanted to get it right, be awesome, because only then could I justify my worth. I hesitate to write the next sentence because my mom reads this, but the truth is that I always came after my dad’s addictions. I desperately wanted to be first, and when I was pitching well, or if I went 3 for 4 and drove in 3 runs, I was. I know he didn’t intend any of this, didn’t try to build an insecure little boy with this mountain of inadequacy to unwind. Like all of us (except for the sociopaths, of which I’m convinced there are very very few), he did his best and I loved him to the moon.

But all of life became a proving ground for my right to be here, where I had to be awesome to find a seat at the table. I had to be the best everything, ball player, funniest, coolest, whatever, which turned me into a big fat pleaser who wasn’t particularly any of those things, except an actor who would contort into any shape you wanted me to be.

Maybe you don’t believe in God or Jesus or faith or anything at all, (and that’s cool, we’re all on different paths), but as I began to fall in love with Jesus, I began to discover that my worth wasn’t tied to my performance at all. That I was good enough, loved, that I belonged as I was, as I am. Of course, this wasn’t overnight. That was 23 years, half of my life, ago, and I’m still writing sentences like the one earlier.

But here’s the cool thing. I was totally honest as I wrote that paragraph this week, and that honesty allowed the click. The boy I used to be was mistaken about his worth. He was depressed and unsure of himself and I’d really like to wrap him up in my arms and let him cry. The problem then was so little of my behavior was authentic, so much was a show, image making and fake. That dishonesty keep me fumbling in the dark for years and years.

Maybe nobody will ever read this, but it’s all true. I overshare because I’m through hiding, everything is dragged into the light and exposed. Of course it’s sometimes scary, but when it is, I know it’s absolutely necessary. I could go on forever and ever about awakening to the man that I’ve been able to meet, vital baby step by vital baby step, but it’s times like these where I can face truth without shame and (here’s the best part) give me a break.

I have responsibility, but not control. Maybe I’ve modeled an unhealthy posture, but I can also model steps towards something brand new. Nothing’s set in stone, today isn’t just yesterday, part 2, we can unwind. He’s a beautiful boy with a lot of weight on his shoulders that I’m vary familiar with. This family (the one that lives in this house that shares my name as well as the entire circle surrounding our lives) is a wonderfully safe place to test the ground. And then to jump.

Anyway — December 8, 2021

Anyway

Sometimes I sit down at this computer (which is a actually an iPad and an attached keyboard) and don’t have a clue what to write. The blank screen is intimidating, ruthlessly mocking me, laughing at this idiot sitting in the dark illuminated only by it’s condescending blue light.

Of course, that’s only in my head. This blank screen doesn’t care about me at all. I can write or not write and it wouldn’t care less. Indifferent like the ocean, where I could swim or drown and she wouldn’t even blink.

Yet I still sit down at this computer (iPad with attached keyboard), ideas or not. I start and delete, start and delete, getting 5 or 6 words or 5 or 6 paragraphs before I trash it all and begin again. I listen to music and type the lyrics, poetry that no one will ever read, paraphrased Bible verses, weather forecasts, anything. Just moving my fingers, really, trying to jar some form of muscle memory, as if the inspiration is in my hands. Maybe it is. Maybe they remember. Maybe after 2 hours, I close this tablet with nothing at all.

I do this anyway. No matter what. It’s like the dishes. I don’t ever feel like doing the dishes, am never inspired to clean up the sink, but I do it anyway. I set reminders on my phone for Mondays and Fridays, and do you know why? Because my wife likes when I do them. We’ve been married for 20 years and our marriage is better than it has ever been, and it’s not close. There were moments, days, years, where we didn’t feel like doing the dishes (whatever the ‘dishes’ were, whether dinner or sex or trash or kindness or laundry or whatever.) We have this practice where we come to the front door to meet the other when they get home. Sometimes the chair or couch or bed is comfortable or extra-extra comfortable, and we come anyway. We don’t always feeeel like it. And we go anyway. I pastor a church and there are times where I don’t jump out of bed on a Sunday morning. I don’t always hurry to the gym because I’m sooo in the mood to work out, either.

I think it’s important to write here. I’d decided this about me before I ever sit down, topic or not. I love my wife like crazy. I am also going to love my wife like crazy. These 2 statements are not about circumstance or situation or the weather or motivation or inspiration, they are simply what I do, what I will do. They are non-negotiable.

So I sit down here and give the time, like an offering. I don’t have to think about if I want to anymore, I cannot be talked out of it, it’s value isn’t in question. It is now who I am.

I discovered who I am after many, many years of searching. Many, many years of weight & priority, of digging into my heart and learning what I truly value. I read the Bible, not necessarily because I always want to, but because I want to be the sort of man who reads the Bible.

And when I don’t… Of course I don’t. I’m not anywhere close to the neighborhood of perfect. My Bible can get dusty, the dishes don’t always get done on a Monday and Friday, the Angel doesn’t always know I love her to the moon and back, not every decision is consistent with the me I’m becoming. So when I don’t…well, I also want to be the sort of man who is kind, forgiving, peaceful and loving to everyone (including me) anyway.

Enemies — December 2, 2021

Enemies

In the Bible, Jesus says to “Love your enemies.” This is the sort of thing in the Scriptures that we’ve heard several thousand times and sounds very spiritual and evolved. But sometimes…

Well, you know the song “Irreplaceable,” by Beyoncé? When it was released, it was in constant rotation. You could hear it almost any time of the day or night on one of the local pop radio stations. (It’s like Olivia Rodrigo – right now, I can guarantee that you can find one of her songs on one of the presets in your car.) But in listening to it so much, “Irreplaceable” lost something. It didn’t lose it’s shine, we just lost our sensitivity to the light. It was still AWESOME (listen to it again, I promise you’ll remember how much you love it), we just fell asleep. It was so familiar, it became routine background noise instead of soul-rattling.

There are lots of things like this. Seinfeld. Endgame. The Beatles. Your spouse. Your kids. Steph Curry. Kisses. Pizza.

Loving your enemies is a topic we talk about in churches where we all nod and pretend that we understand and have checked off a to-do list long ago. Yeah, yeah, love your enemies. Now what?

The problem is that this pretense is all well & good, right up until the point where we actually have an enemy. (Well, once we have an enemy AND are finally unable to successfully hide it behind some imaginary religious self-righteousness.) With this enemy’s face forefront in our minds taunting us, reminding us how awful he/she is, the true impact of His words is revealed. And it is here, right here, that we discover that we don’t in fact like this passage at all.

Like “Irreplaceable,” it was so familiar, it became unfamiliar. Unknown. Totally Foreign. We forgot that this is a shockingly humongous ask. It’s practically impossible. Which, I’m well aware, is probably the point. And this impossible dream is very easy to miss as long as we continue this ridiculous practice of image-making, masquerading as perfect plastic people.

The truth is, there are quite a few real-life enemies walking around hurting those we love (hurting our friends and family is waaay worse than hurting us, right??) over and over and over and over on purpose. They are psychopathic in their malice and leave a wide path of wreckage in their wake. Love them? Is that really the command?

Yes, it is. Maybe I don’t love mine, at least not today, but I’m finally hearing the song, and that’s something.