Choosing to love is a precarious thing, more for some than for others. There’s such a variety of things to get in the way: our expectations, emotions, other’s perceptions, past hurts. Watching my children become human and learn how to love has become a favorite pastime of mine, maybe moreso a daily lesson. The challenge of this lesson comes when my eldest challenges authority, and in this aims to test the bounds of love: even if I do something wrong, will Mama still love me? Will that love remain? She’s feeling out the nature of mercy. Love itself is authority in our lives, and how we choose to acknowledge the mandate of love comes at us in different ways every day. One of the problems of late? So many who have decided that hatred, cynicism, generalization about entire groups of people, and an overall lack of mercy in favor of repudiation and control wipes the mandate of love right out. It disturbs me to the core.
The death of my colleague and friend Lance Wilder at age 47 drew out for me the mandate of love in a new way—his passing reminded me that we must be in the now, fully given to it and each other. We are given the opportunity for infinite time with God, but limited time with each other. And then we choose to waste our time daily, to ignore each other in favor of smartphones and taking each other down, defending self instead of walking with others. My head is crowded with “what’s next” lists, striving to achieve all before the clock runs out. It’s not a game, though—heaven can live in those moments along the way toward God. I am so grateful to have realized this not too late, but I definitely have a way to go for consistent practice of self-surrender.
A step away from these sometimes suffocating limitations we place on ourselves as humans creates an opportunity for understanding, a shift in mindset. Here’s the thing, though: you have to be willing to put down your smartphone, your gun, your so-called principles, and walk away, far enough to see the world God gave you as it actually is, not in the mirror of your making. We don’t want to see our brokenness, we don’t want mercy and scramble instead to put each other out, not realizing that instead of creating a space for peace we’re creating within us a black hole, endless in its hunger for greed and misplaced righteousness. A long, long way from love.
Lance was good at spotting the brokenness, at grappling with it, and I always respected that about him—all the sadder he’s gone from this earthly home. I think he also questioned the kind of faith that was blind to truth and self-serving, immovable to the point of mercilessness, something of a plague around us. This blindness is not the faith I cherish, cultivate, and challenge daily. The mandate of love is about God’s hand in our lives in spite of our brokenness—indeed, because of it. Choosing to love now is a radical act in this context—what Jesus calls for when he tells the parable of the Good Samaritan and suggests a deeper answer to the question an “expert in the law” (Luke 10:25) boldly states: what must I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus answers with a story that encapsulates the opposite of what humans seem capable of when wrapped in their own pasts and burdens, and suggests that those of us free to do so should help in the unravelling. He calls for mercy, no matter the cost. He chooses a parable to get past the questioner’s legal expertise while at the same time tweaking it: what’s fair? Who’s included? What’s the bottom line? He does not sacrifice the lesson of mercy or succumb to only law as a way to perceive. There is a place beyond earthly perception, and Jesus’ eye was on it when he answered the question with more important questions. He took brokenness and love in both hands and brought them together.
Would that it were true, that we would heed the gift of time both now and forever.