for AJB :)

When I was growing up, “I love you” meant “I like you”–only on a deeper and safer level. When my mother told me she loved me, it never occurred to me to wonder if she liked me on that particular day. It was all part and parcel of the same thing.

Growing up means learning that not everyone views things the way you do. Like learning that for some people the statement “I love that person but I don’t have to like him” is more than merely a theoretical statement. And that whether or not they like you can change from day to day and moment to moment.

This alternate perspective has taught me that loving and liking are not the same thing and has also brought many questions to ponder. Questions such as these:

~ Can we truly love someone without at some point discovering that we have come to like them, too? Is it really love if it holds the other at at disgusted distance?
~ If someone really truly likes you, will that liking change based on what you do on a given day?
~ Does God like us? or does He just love us?

I have to thank Steve Hong from Kingdom Rice for introducing me to this Mr. Rogers song during a message he gave at my parents’ church. I never watched Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood as a child, though I had seen a snippet here and there to make me familiar with the show and its host. (In fact, I sometimes laughingly told people that the show had made me throw up once. In actuality, it was the flu I had at the time that did the trick. It just happened to coincide with my aunt turning on PBS and Mr. Rogers to entertain the sick girl and her baby brother.) Like Steve Hong, it has only been in my adult years that I have become impressed by Mr. Rogers.

Mr. Rogers has helped me to answer some of those questions in his song “It’s You I Like.”

 

In this song, sung to Tonight Show host Joan Rivers, Mr. Rogers conveys the essence of the way God must look at us. And the way that Joan Rivers reacts to him makes us laugh but also reveals how genuine his message is. The more I look at the interactions of Jesus with other people, the more I watch their reactions to Him, the more convinced I am that God really likes us. Look at Zacchaeus: Jesus went right up to the person that no one else in the town liked at all and invited Himself over to eat with the man! The whole town was shocked at Jesus’ act of friendliness towards this unlikeable man (and for good reason, too, as Zacchaeus himself alluded to after dinner with Jesus). (Luke 19:1-10)

God likes us. He doesn’t just love us out of duty ["I'm God and and I guess that since I'm love and all then I'd better provide for these nasty people I love. But they'd better not come near me!"]. He really likes us. God made us in His image. Each of us uniquely reflects Him in a way that no one else ever will. No one else can be you; you have something to say to the world about your Creator, and no one else can say it as eloquently as you say it just by being yourself. He enjoys the unique person you are. He’s glad you’re in the world. If you could see His face when you enter a room, you’d see it lighting up as you come in. God really likes you.

 

So. I’ve come to these conclusions:

First, loving and liking are two different things, but they belong together. Liking can grow into loving; loving can’t be complete without liking.

Second, Jesus likes me, this I know, for the Bible SHOWS me so.

Three, if I tell you I love you, it means that I very much like you, too. And it means that I will to do my best to demonstrate that to you–even though I will never do it perfectly, I will not stop trying.

Finally, liking you means liking the real you, not just the superficial things such as clothes and hair and charm and wit and friendliness. It’s not how well you play the saxophone or the how well you perform in school. It’s not your carrying my bags or giving me hugs. I may enjoy all of those things; I may communicate that enjoyment to you. All of those are an expression of you, but they aren’t you. It’s YOU I like. You make my world a better place just by being in it. You.

Even on your worst days.

 

Can it be any accident that the first major biography in the Bible is that of a man called by God to a place he’d never been before?

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. Hebrews 11:8 (ESV)

He may not be the first man whose life story is chronicled in Scripture–we have Adam and Noah before him, not to mention many others who get honorable (and dishonorable) mention. But Abraham’s is the first of the detailed life stories given throughout the rest of Scripture. The first of the list of men whose stories mark the focused dealings of God with those He chose to be “His People.”

And how does his story begin? with God calling him out of his comfort zone, away from his culture, and into a journey that had a promise he could not completely envision. “A land that I will show you,” God told him. Both definite and indefinite at the same time. It’s a definite promise, yet a promise like a Christmas present–all wrapped up in mystery.

I couldn’t help but reflect today that Abraham’s story is the story of every friend of God. That God calls each of us to leave our comfort zones, challenges our cultural inheritance, and leads us to a definite promise that is wrapped in mystery yet full of hope.

It can’t be an accident that Abraham’s story is right at the beginning of all things.

A few years ago, I asked my grandmother what events in her life struck her generation like 9-11 struck mine. She said that Pearl Harbor Day was like that for her–totally shocking. And memorable. And she still remembers it every Pearl Harbor Day . . . while for me that day feels like almost any other day, even though I know what happened.

Like all tragedies, this date and its impact has faded for me into the background of daily activities, more easily running into the weeks and months and years. In some ways I am sad for that–sad to lose that noble sting. In some ways I am glad for the sign of moving through the grieving process.

But I will always remember where I was on Sept 11 when the Twin Towers fell. I will always remember little details about the next months and years. Like the birth of my brother and my sister, I can hardly remember how we lived before that date. Can hardly remember when TSA lines were not routine. Because whether we remember it or not, 9-11, like Pearl Harbor Day, redefined our world and our nation.

I pray that it has redefined us for the better and for the nobler. That the courage and unity demonstrated on that day will not be swallowed up in the fear of being hurt and in the determination to be safe above all else. But like all wounds and all grief, it is our choice what we will do with the pain. Will we run and hide? or will we dare again to be ourselves? Will we play it safe or will we continue to take risks in the pursuit of what is right?

We know what the Pearl Harbor Generation did. They didn’t do it perfectly, and they didn’t do everything right. But they rose to the challenge nobly. May history show us to have done the same with our redefining moment.

“When I Consider How My Light Is Spent”
also known as “On His Blindness”

a sonnet by John Milton

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or His own gifts. Who best
Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at His bidding speed,
And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

(this poem is in the public domain; I copied it from poets.org  http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/when-i-consider-how-my-light-spent)

 

–this background commentary on the poem from  http://www.cummingsstudyguides.net/Guides5/Blindness.html
John Milton’s eyesight began to fail in 1644. By 1652, he was totally blind. Oddly, he wrote his greatest works, Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, after he became blind. Many scholars rank Milton as second only to Shakespeare in poetic ability.

Love (III)
by George Herbert


Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
                              Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
                             From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
                             If I lacked any thing.

 

A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?

 

Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.

poem is in the public domain
text taken from poets.org (http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/love-iii)
and (http://www.poetryoutloud.org/poem/173632)

 

and Ralph Vaughn-Williams set it to music! a bit operatic, but if you like Vaughn-Williams . . .

 

Praise is a sacrifice
Choosing the gracefulness of gratitude
Over the seeming gratification
Of griping and grousing
Choosing to receive in every package
The gifts a good God always gives

Praise accepts
Abundance beyond the want
And offers thanks as
An act of trust
In the affection of an Almighty sovereign

Praise is a gift
Freely given
Graciously acknowledged
By the One Who sees all
And recognizes it for what it is–
A sacrifice

That fills the life of the giver

With the fragrance
Of His presence.

From thirsty, parched soul
To bubbling fountain
Christ makes you the miracle

Jesus gives the order
Servants do what servants do
Water becomes wine

9-10-11

Psalm 139:6
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.

vi
I admit, I am a bit overwhelmed
As I ponder
How completely
You care for me.
I can’t wrap my mind around the
Magnitude
Of these details:
I can’t even get past the fact that You
Care enough
To observe me so minutely,
To study me.

9-10-11

Psalm 139:5
Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.

v
The oddest part is this: You haven’t rifled
through my heart and moved on.
No, You’ve besieged me. Here I thought
I’d have to look for You, to chase You down,
And when I looked out my windows,
You had me completely surrounded.
You’d planned Your campaign,
You were here for the long haul–here to stay.
And I could feel You laying Your hand on me–
For what?
Just to show me Your closeness?
As a fatherly expression of affection?
In benediction? As investiture of power?
Or maybe so I wouldn’t be afraid of Your
Drastic measures to make me Yours.

9-10-11

Psalm 139:4
For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.

iv
You know me so well that You know
What I will say
Before I say it.
[When others do this, I sometimes find it
Disconcerting--should I be
Comforted when You do it?]
[Do You sit back with pleasure to hear
What You know I will say
And how I will say it?]

9-10-11

Psalm 139:3
Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.

iii
Like diffused light on a cloud-covered day,
You are everywhere around me
Yet springing from no one spot.
You surround what I do
All day long, and at night
Your presence
Is as ubiquitous as the air I breathe.
Like a nurse who has worked with one doctor
For many years,
You are used to the way I do things.
You’re familiar with my
Mode of action–
And You’re comfortable with me.
[Actually, God, I'd like to be comfortable with You that way, too.]
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