My last essay, A Birthday (and Holiday) Lamentation, was a very personal exploration of some serious challenges in my life currently. It is a hard and sad post.
Yet, there is hope. My wife, Pamela, two days after that article wrote what I thought was a beautiful post on Facebook:
“Love Wins” is a real thing.
And that saying that blood is thicker than water? Yeah, well, toss that saying into the dust bin right where it belongs. It isn’t even close to true.
But “Love Wins”? Dust that one off and put that on the mantle, right where *it* belongs.
Many know that things have been really difficult for our family due to the perverse intentions and actions of relatives. I’m here to say that what they have intended for evil in our lives has been and is being overshadowed by so much good- in so many ways. We have seen God’s hand and His protection as we slog through this season, and we’ve seen His care in a million little ways through the faces, voices, and hands of our friends who have proven in spades that they are our true family… they are being Jesus with skin on in our lives.
The words of kindness and care, unexpected gifts of various natures, the phone calls and messages, etc… have left me so very grateful and thankful for the *many* good people in our lives who are constantly reminding me, reminding us, that love is the antidote to cynicism even when it feels like cynicism is what fuels the world. Everyone benefits from seeing that there is good in this world, and if there is good, then there is hope for humanity. To the givers…. of time, talent, self, encouragement, resources… thank you.
Love. Love *always* wins.
The Family We Choose
The reality is that our family is not the family into which we were born. Our family is the people who we have met over the years who have come beside us with love. Some we met in our childhood, some in high school, while others we met more recently. They stretch all across the nation and the world. While our blood has demonstrated malice and indifference, our chosen family has shown us great love both materially and emotionally. The words of encouragement and concern along with the constant reminders of God’s truths have been truly encouraging. Their love has been felt and we thank them for that.
Because of the issues outlined in my Birthday Lamentation, our Christmas was a unique one for us. There was no tree, no lights, no opening presents. There was no extended family. We had hoped to have my father with us on Christmas but my siblings, who had him for Thanksgiving and all the Holidays last year would only agree to an equitable visitation schedule. They only approved a schedule that would require me to spend eight hours driving and only give my children a short visit with their grandfather.
We woke up to stockings and cinnamon rolls. It was good to keep a little of our traditional Christmas. We then left the house to see Mary Poppins Returns which our family tremendously enjoyed. Some of the kids were quick to bring up how the plot mirrors our life currently. I had picked out a Chinese restaurant that Yelp had said would be open… unfortunately it wasn’t.
We scrambled a bit to find a Chinese restaurant and ended up having to travel about 25 miles but found a restaurant we really enjoyed. When we got home our children were really interested in watching the original Mary Poppins. Unfortunately, our movies are boxed for our impending move so we had to find the box and dig it out. But, it was a good choice. We spent the entire day basking in our love for each other. It was a good Christmas made possible by the generosity and love of our chosen family.
For me, one of the highlights happened just after we watched Mary Poppins Returns. As we returned to the car, there was an elderly homeless man on the street. I pulled out a couple of dollars to give him, as is our practice. After we passed and were near our car, my wife, who had noticed that I had a twenty-dollar bill said, “I think we should give him a $20.” I pulled out a twenty and handed it to my youngest daughter to run it back to him. He was so overjoyed by that small, inconsequential gift! He repeatedly waved and thanked us as we were herding our five children into the car and driving away. I have never seen a homeless person so appreciative. It brought a tear to my eye.
After we rounded the block and drove away my wife said, “We should have done more. We should have spent time with him and had a conversation with him.” She was right. Material means are important, and it felt good to share what had been given to us, but what we should have done was engage him in a more human way by sitting with him and acknowledging the Imago Dei in him. What we did was good but … it was the easiest ‘good’ to do.
A Lifestyle of Love
Exhibiting the love that always wins isn’t always easy. It requires something from us. We must think more about others than ourselves. It requires that we approach life through the lens of love.
Today’s meme had this famous quote:
The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable. – Brennan Manning
This is a popular quote among Christians. I think, though, that far too many Christians think the lifestyle of denial the quote speaks to has to do with things like drinking, smoking, foul language, or even bigger things like cheating, lying, or having affairs.
I don’t think that is the case. The lifestyle of denial is a lifestyle that is not characterized by love. What the world can’t understand is a Christianity that is based around the love of the God who laid his life down in love for us and yet we fail to extend that love to others. The world does not understand a Christianity that claims to worship a God who IS love and yet we show so little love towards our neighbor.
That is the tragedy of the current political and cultural environment. When the world looks at the people of God they do not see a people characterized by love. This is what is so unbelievable to an unbelieving world, to claim to follow Christ, who is the very definition of love, and yet struggle so greatly to display much of that love at all.
I thank my wife and our friends whose generosity and loving concern reminds me that I need, despite the challenges of life, to live a life characterized by a lifestyle of love. I need to Love Loudly.
This essay is from our Anastasis Series where we resurrect articles from the past that are still relevant today. This piece was first published on December 26, 2018, and has been lightly edited and updated.