Tag Archives: love

More Than A Party Line: A Love That’s Real

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“Do you love soccer?” she asked leaning towards me. “The only way you will be good at soccer is if you love it!” She looked at me waiting for an answer.

I mumbled, “Yeah. I love it.” Obviously disappointed with my lackluster response, she got up and repeated her spiel to more enthusiastic members of our soccer team. To be fair to myself, I had only been on the girls college soccer team for a few days, and I had only played intramural soccer before this. I really hadn’t played soccer long enough, or well enough, to say I loved it.

However, this isn’t the whole story with me. If I’m honest with myself, I struggle to “love” things like others do. I don’t care much for sports, or stores, or celebrities, or specific groups of thought. Whenever I’m interested in something, I will always try to learn what I can. But a few steps before I enter the inner circle of devotees, something inside of me asks, “Does this really even matter?”

That is the question that ends it all for me. Do sports have very valuable and helpful attributes for individuals and society? Yes, I completely agree. Does it really matter though in the overall picture of the world and time and meaning? Well, no.

This same line of reasoning applies to just about everything I’ve ever been interested in from English literature to essential oils.  I can only go in so far before I have to admit to myself that what I’m doing is only valuable in a superficial way. This is a real buzz killer. 

The closest I’ve ever been to accepting the party line is with my faith in Christ. To me, the question of “does this even matter” is answered with a resounding yes!  However, when I became a believer in college, I had no idea that in the Christian world, there are many party lines. There is the Calvinist party line, the retreat from the world party line, the inclusive party line, the theologically accurate at all costs party line, the charismatic party line, the environmentally friendly party line and the list goes on. I’ve tried various hats on along the way–wildly enthusiastic for a while until a door is cracked open into another Christian paradigm and then I question everything.

This plethora of viewpoints, within the greater vision of faith, is overwhelming and oftentimes discouraging because each group believes unequivocally that they are correct. There is no room for error. Much like the polarizing debates of politics unfolding in our country, the arguments over needle-fine points of theology are weaponized.

My own experience within the various Christian groups is that sometimes underneath the veneer of righteous indignation one can find a cesspit of pride and self-worship.  A perusal of a Twitter feed should prove that point. Since pride and self-worship are anathemas to the true worship of God, we must ask ourselves what we love more–our opinion or our God?

This has led me to crazy conclusion that it’s ok if I am wrong about lots of stuff. My political leanings could be wrong. My understanding of the trinity is most likely weak. My belief about the best kinds of worship music is tainted by my own desires. It isn’t until I admit that I could be wrong or, at least, acting on my thinking in a wrong way, that I can be teachable.

We Christians are afraid of being teachable. We are so scared of falling off the theological train to heaven that we forget that theology doesn’t save us. In fact, theology’s only purpose is to introduce us to the Savior, whose job it is to do the work of salvation. Great doctrine will not save us–only Jesus can. I take comfort in this.

In addition, learning from people who are different from us doesn’t put us in danger of compromising our faith. It may cause us to question some things and even reject points, but we shouldn’t fear different viewpoints. I am friends with believers who hold wildly varying beliefs: those who oppose female leadership, those who are female pastors, those sympathetic to the plight of immigrants, those in opposition to immigrants, those who are angry at the LGBTQ agenda, and those who embrace them. 

I do know though that the Jesus I see in the Gospels is often surprising. He values things that are different. Rather than preferring theological astuteness, he encourages persistent, unabashed, humble faith. He turned conventional teachings on their heads–focusing on the inward gauge of spirituality rather than the outward discipline. He tells stories of surprising heroes, a God zealous for reconnection, and a cost of discipleship that goes deeper than religious acts.

In my Christian faith, I do not need to follow a party line. I need to follow Jesus. This is exciting because he is exciting. He shows up in random places, reveals things I never would have seen if I stayed safe in my theological bubble. He challenges me, never letting me get away with the Sunday school answer.  He digs, however painfully, until we get to the marrow and then He does his amazing, transforming work of changing my heart and not just my mind.

Now this is something, someone, I can follow.  I can throw my whole lot in and answer without reservation–I love Jesus. He truly is worthy of our love and worship. Let’s rediscover him, not in books written about Him but from his own words. Open up the gospels, observe this strange man who seemed to move to a different cadence than the rest. Listen to his words, sit as His feet, and see what He has to say to you too. You may find then that the clamorings of opinions that before seemed so convincing and right, no longer mean as much as they used to. Instead, maybe we can be so trained to the shepherd’s voice that His will be the one that matters most.

The Character of Love

In our time of overwhelming media input, it’s easy to get confused about love. C.S. Lewis bemoaned the deficiencies of  the English language with it’s single word for love, whereas the Greek language offers four separate words! We are fortunately gifted with the life of Christ and the beautiful words of Paul the apostle in 1 Corinthians 13 to help us, but sometimes what we grow familiar with no longer impacts us as it should. This is where the God-ordained power of story steps in to give us a new perspective. For this reason I am very grateful for Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Set in post-revolutionary France, this story focuses on the tragic and beautiful life of Jean Valjean who fleshes out a picture of sacrificial and responsive love.

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What I Learned About God from Watching Hallmark Movies

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I must admit that I enjoy Hallmark movies.  I say that with some hesitation because I’m actually really picky about my movie choices–to the point of being annoying.  There is something that pulls on me though when I watch those cheesy, predictable romance movies.  I’ve tried to ignore that part of me. I try instead to listen to the other part that knows better, that understands that what is being portrayed is not what real romance looks like.  But I can’t help it.  This desire for romance resonates deeply within me, and I want to understand why instead of being embarrassed by it.

I’ve come to wonder why women are naturally drawn to romance.  Even though our culture has changed so dramatically in regards to sex and relationships, women are overwhelmingly the consumers of romance movies and novels.  While this does not apply to every woman, it is prevalent enough to warrant some investigation.

The Desire for Romance

Many might argue that it is simply a matter of conditioning and that women are raised to think that their lives are only meaningful if a man is in it.  I was not raised this way though.  I was raised by my single father who taught me that I could be anything I wanted to be; who had philosophical discussions with me all throughout my growing up years, and who allowed me to travel around the world even though I was only a teenager.  And, yet, I still wanted romance, even craved it.  

This continues to be the case for many, even in our time of casual sex and no strings-attached encounters.  In fact, in a recent article in the New York Times called “For Best Hookup Results, Use Your Words, O.K.?” a recent college graduate explores her own misgivings.  She talks about how after a no-strings attached hookup, she was thrown off guard by her lover’s sweet words, telling her she was the “girl of his dreams.”  He says all this, acting like he is interested and then never contacts her again.  She is frustrated that she was so easily duped and considers why she was.  She reveals that, even though she wasn’t seeking it, she still desired love.

…I find myself thinking it will all get better when I find romance.  When I have a man who wants me despite how fallible, loud or political I can be.  Someone who, with a kiss, can snap me out of my self-pitying reverie.  I think about how long I’ve been ready to find the beauty in another human being, to caress the scars of someone as flawed as me and to feel that person reciprocate.   

Why do we have this desire that is so strong that all the cultural conditioning in the world can’t seem to stop it? Perhaps we were created to crave and value relationship.  Maybe it is something we should celebrate instead of despise.

Women Under Attack

Right now, when the very idea of what it even means to be a woman is under attack, this very fundamental, feminine trait should be explored, instead of dismissed.  Have you ever wondered why those things that are traditionally feminine are always considered inferior?  

Going back to the very beginning we see the roots of this anti-female litany—Satan Himself. It is easy to cast the white male as the main perpetrator (though history can attest that he is certainly not the only or most pervasive abuser). Instead, we must consider the spiritual dimension of the age-old problem.

In the garden, Satan targets Eve. He makes her doubt her place and God’s goodness. He deceives her with statements meant to pit her against her God. Adam, in turn, says nothing, yet seems to wait to see what happens. This story seems to paint the woman in a negative light and in some ways it does. But have you ever wondered—why did Satan go after her?

The Imago Dei

I believe it is because the female persona reflects a very unique and specific attribute of God. When God is moved to creation He clearly states in Genesis 1:27 (NIV), “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

That means there are attributes in both males and females which encapsulate God’s very identity. And the female attribute must be so important that Satan saw fit to attack it again and again—in the garden and every day since.  We, as women, offer a part of God that this world can never see unless we are here. Our suffering does not remove our dignity; it highlights the special purpose for which we were created. And while this longing for love makes us vulnerable, it alone can show the world the tender heart of God, who has made emptied Himself for us (Philippians 2:7).

After the fall, God’s promise of redemption even comes through Eve in a prophecy that can only be fulfilled by a woman. And if we look at Mary, perhaps we see a bit of that divine character that Satan despises: her courage, her loyalty, her single-mindedness-carrying the biggest secret in history, as she doggedly walks forward to the end.  She’s the most vulnerable woman in history but also the most hopeful.

And, let’s not forget that deep longing for relationship in every woman which reflects God’s own longing for relationship.  Perhaps our longing for romance is misguided in that it focuses its hope upon another fallible person.  However, the problem is not in the longing.  There is nothing weak or foolish about relationship.  In fact, it is the bedrock upon which life must be built. It is also the loose thread being pulled in our culture that is causing it all to unravel.  The desire to love and be loved, to know and be known, is a reflection of God’s own heart.

“Thus says the Lord, “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.  For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9: 23-24 ESV bold and italics mine).

God emphatically states that this is His heart’s desire–to be understood and known.   

My Feminine Gift

Therefore I will reject the anti-female rhetoric which states that to desire relationship is silly.  I will instead embrace and relish this longing that is at the root of the Gospel which is in itself an invitation to relationship.  I will work hard, though, to not allow myself to be distracted by the offerings of human romantic love, however delightful, as a means of satisfying this longing.  Instead, I will direct my wayward heart towards the One who truly understands this need, and who meets and sanctifies it.  I will not be embarrassed by this any longer for I know that this is part of my feminine gift to the world–the gift of love. After all, the Jesus Storybook explains it perfectly:

The Bible is most of all a Story…it’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne—everything—to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!