It’s been said- to love with reckless abandon– and never have those words carried such meaning ’til now. Because doesn’t reckless abandon signify throwing caution to the wind and hold nothing back! To empty oneself, and give with every fiber of one’s being, at the risk of appearing silly or “too much” or overly passionate? To love fully and well is my renewed prayer.
But for some reason, we often hold back with this love of ours. Whether it’s with our spouses or children, our friendships, or God, there is a vulnerable, quite scary feeling that if we love fully, we may not be loved that way in return. And the reality is, we may not. We may offer our entire hearts, our arms and homes and words wide open only to be met with ambivalence, rolled eyes, rejection or silence. Is that a reason not to love? On the contrary, Jesus calls us to love our enemies, so how much greater should our affection and actions be with those treasured in our lives?
The other day a friend called and was so gentle about explaining that she’s intentionally been giving me space during this time, even though her desire has been to call and come over, and be available. And I returned with an honest, peace-filled response; that in fact, it’s been quiet- words not meant to pull obligation or create guilt- but said with a freedom-finding perspective. Because I see it now. When tragedy or celebration occurs, we don’t know what to do. We assume others are rushing to the need with meals or hugs, or we believe people are surrounding with balloons and smiles. And so instead we hold back, we wait, we give space. And what happens is other people fill the space I want to fill, they provide the love that I deeply desire to give.
When we lived in the Central Coast, Bryan’s youth intern was an incredible young man named Clayton. Clayton had battled leukemia twice times by the time we had met him, returned a third time in the time we lived there, and then a fourth time and around December of 2008, to which he responded with a confident, much prayed over decision- to be done with treatment, knowing it would only prolong the inevitable. During that time, friends surrounded the eighteen year old and his faithful family. I’ve never met a teenager who wore God’s peace in such a confident, humble way, telling everyone about his Jesus, then living out those words at every opportunity.
And you know what I did with Clayton’s terminal news? Nothing. I did nothing. When I saw him at youth group, setting up games or talking with students, I offered a hug and avoided the elephant in the room- the elephant being his looming earthly death from leukemia. I mean, it was uncomfortable, what would I say?… so, umm… I know you’re not going to be around forever, but I want you to know that I admire you. That you are a refreshing rock of faith, a pillar of simplicity and grateful living… Words failed me. I’d like to say I didn’t allow myself to be swallowed by awkwardness, but that wouldn’t be true. Clayton died weeks after God called us away from the Central Coast and back to Orange County.
Fast forward 4 1/s years…Two weeks after my dad passed away, we went home to Atascadero, to honor my commitment to speak at a women’s conference, a workshop at our old church. We stayed with Clayton’s parents, Stan and Wendy, precious friends whom we can pick up right where we left off regardless of time or miles. One night, Wendy and I settled into her couch, and I spoke of learning about this grief thing, this “new normal” she’s had to embrace the last four years after losing her son. It was one of those moments I could almost visually see God display a life lesson come full circle, now being on her side, on the side of many others who have gone before in experiencing loss, only to learn the beauty in loving with reckless abandon through the awkwardness, in the unsure words, as well as in the joys! And I was humbled, and so sorry that I had never loved Clayton in the way I wish I would have. Not in the way he expected or wanted me to, but in the reckless way I could have, but didn’t.
Let us be men and women that love recklessly.
Let us speak to our spouses as if we were dating again. Grab the paper and pen and get silly with a love note. Let’s erase the list of wrongs we’ve been mentally adding up, and instead, thank them for how hard they work and the ways they sacrifice. Gals, let’s drink an extra cup of coffee or glass of wine and grab the lingerie from the bottom of the drawer, light a candle or two and forget for a moment about our post-baby flaws or aged bods and show them they are the only person we care about in this moment.
Let us pause cleaning and multi-tasking and lay a blanket outside to point at cloud shapes with our children. Let us get dirty planting flowers alongside their wide-open eyes, their fingernails full of dirt, their shrieks at worm discoveries. Let us get lost for hours in the pages of fairy-tales and I Spy’s. Let us not only tell them we love them, but show them each second of the day, even when they are melting down in Target and please Lord, all we want is to grab a roll of toilet paper and gallon of milk!
Let us be sensitive to God’s prompting when he brings to mind a specific friend- don’t ignore it, but in that moment, call them, and let that person know you are thinking of them and praying for them. Ask how, in fact, are they? With those friends, those that are like air to our lives, let us not believe the lie that everyone else is showing up for them. May we put aside our assumptions, or fears of rejection, or appearing like a stalker or like someone that cares too much. Instead, let us show them love however we have the capacity and healthy margin to do so.
A friend had a baby boy last week- her second son, and I found myself assuming her closest friends were bringing meals and snuggling him while she rested, or taking her older son to the park to give her some time to get acquainted with the new babe, which I’m sure is true! But instead of falling prey to the myth that her needs are met, I picked up the phone and left her a message. I told her I couldn’t wait to hold her sweet boy and bring coffee and food and let her take a nap or… because those needs matter and I want to offer. Even is she says no, I want to let her know her baby and her family matter.
With God, let’s believe who He says He is. Because He either is or He isn’t. And this world is too filled with His Glory to argue otherwise. May our lives reflect our love for Him. For weeks I’ve been clinging to Him the way Ty does me in the ocean waves- with sheer desperation and a dependent fear. For weeks it’s been quiet despite my gallons of tears and snot and questions. For weeks I’ve watched and listened, and anticipated his comfort and peace- that which he promises to all who ask, and then, surely as the sun rises, he speaks. And he says,
“Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me- put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. ~Philippians 4:4-9
Nothing is more true, or noble or right or pure or lovely or admirable than to love with reckless abandon. To love the way Christ loves- with no expectations, only full of grace and truth.
May today be the day we lay down fear and assumption and worry, and instead may we pick up love, scary love, the kind that gets us excited to give away, and may we love our spouses, our children, our friends and mostly, our God, with reckless abandon.