Up until this past week of crazy cold temperatures, the fall has been amazing in Colorado. Most weather forecasts could be summed up as, “beautiful, with a 100% chance of lovely in the afternoon.” This provided great late day opportunities for long thoughtful runs through the turning leaves.
During one such run last week, I was wrestling with God on a variety of issues. The conversation began with work related issues, then progressed into thoughts on how to care for and support my wife, then landed on discussing my desire to better love each of my four children. As I ran and sweat, I poured out my heart to the Father.
I shared how overwhelmed I often feel at daily trying to provide emotional stability, relational connection, spiritual foundation and mental stimulation for each of my kids. So often I feel like I am missing the mark. So often I feel less than adequate. It was in actuality a very sweet, honest and tender moment with Jesus. Step after step, over small bridges and past grazing pastures, God listened intently to my struggles and questionings. Eventually, as I neared my turn-around-point, my heart exclaimed, “God, I don’t know how to love everyone equally!”
This is when He chimed in.
God’s still, small voice, whispered that my premise was faulty. He had not asked me to love others equally. In fact, to try and love others equally misses the point of love entirely. Rather than meeting people individually at their unique points of need, we lower the “love bar” to slightly above neutral. The lower bar becomes a manageable standard for our fragile psyches, but it doesn’t allow for the extravagant love of God to flow through us.
God went further still. He explained that He doesn’t love people equally. That would be too easy. He loves people individually. For who they are, right where they are. Immediately He reminded me of a scene from my life a few years ago.
As a toddler, our youngest experienced several bouts of extreme asthma. His blood oxygen levels would drop precipitously, his lips turned blue and his chest would retract. Breathing was painful for him and painful to watch. Several times we ended up calling 911. It was a scary couple weeks and months. At night, my wife and I stretched out a sleeping bag next to his bed so we could lie next to him and listen for his breathing. As I recalled those scenes, God’s Spirit asked me, “When you were at the food of Zachary’s bed, were you loving your other children less?” The answer was, of course, no. He continued, “That’s right. You loved each of your children individually, at their unique points of need. That is how I love you.”
His next question literally stopped me in my tracks. “Can you love others like that?” I stopped next to the small creek I had been running along. Can I love others individually? Can I consistently love others at the intersection of their specific circumstances? Can I do that with my children? My wife? My co-workers? My neighbors? The elderly man that relishes sharing his stories more than getting to the point? The teenager that acts loud and obnoxious because they don’t understand how they fit in the world? The homeless person whose overwhelming practical needs make me uncomfortable? The small child who only wants someone to laugh with them? The socially awkward divorced guy that is drowning in debt and regret? Rather than trying to love them all the same, can I love them all for who they are and where they are in their journey through life?
That’s a huge question. Yet in that moment, with the Spirit standing strong and still beside me, I knew it was a challenge worth tackling.
I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
– God (Jeremiah 31:3)