Making Your Way in the World Today (4/4)

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 
(1 Corinthians 13:13)

According to Bob Marley, we can “overcome the devils with a thing called love.” He’s not wrong. Whatever those devils are to which Marley is referring, whatever the devils are you’re dealing with today, I bet the void they’re standing in is a space made possible by a lack of love. That’s because darkness gathers around loathing — like smoke rises from a fire.

In the eye of the storm you will always find a person in pain, someone longing to be known and accepted and cherished. Faith can give them roots to stand against the winds and the rain. Hope can give them the determination to imagine a better future. But only love is strong enough to pierce through the dense fog of life. Perhaps that’s why the Bible describes love, in contrast to faith and hope, as better, as eternal.

Without love, faith is dead. Without love, hope is false. Love gives the other virtues earth and sky, a place for belonging and becoming. And, like faith and hope, love is a gift. It’s a gift, not only to be accepted, but swallowed whole, taken into the deepest parts of us, and given freedom to pervade every fibre of our being and permeate the entirety of our existence. Love provides atmosphere for our souls to thrive.

  Shots Fired  

Okay, enough poetic reflections. Can I get real a second? For just a millisecond?

The other day my wife and I went to a funeral out of state to remember and grieve and celebrate the well-lived life of a dear friend. While we were there, several people went out of their way to say hello, notably many former colleagues from a college where I used to serve as dean. On our three-hour drive home, I went on and on about how surprised I was about that people would do that, inconvenience themselves to say nice things, many of them noting specific things about my friendship and leadership. It was entirely unexpected. Their kindness really affected me. It still is, truthfully, even now, as I reflect on that in order to write this.

April looked at me and asked a tender yet loaded question. It was something like, “Why can’t you let it sink in that people love you, and that you have gifts and talents that have been used to bless others?” That’s the kind of question that confronts not only a moment and a situation, but the entirety of a life. Why are we the way we are, why do we resist and run from love? Why can it be so much easier to dislike or even hate ourselves?

To be honest, I’d rather not write this. But I feel compelled. I might not be the only one who needs to let love leak into the darker parts of the heart to fill in cracks caused by life. If nothing else, if you’re reading this, and if you can relate, please know you’re not alone.

Why is it so much easier to be more generous and gentle with others than I would ever remotely consider being with myself? Do you struggle with that too? Maybe not. Well, I do. When we refuse to sit in love and acceptance, to let it sink into us, we starve faith in God and others, and our vision of hope begins to atrophy.

And we lose our way in the world.

Are you lost?

  Addicted to the Pain  

The rapper NF has a poignant line that seems appropriate, “I don’t do drugs, I’m addicted to the pain though.” I think the resistance to love must be a sort of survival tactic we’ve developed to protect our inner selves. This type of psychological self-inflicted pain promises less hurt than the path of vulnerability and authenticity. It’s an anesthetic.

It looks easier than trust. It doesn’t disappoint like hope, because it expects, at best, nothing, and, at worse, just more of the same. That way, at least we know what’s in store. No surprises.

All of us have some addiction to pain of one kind or another, don’t we? We’re all protecting something. We’re all coping. And yet, we all desperately want to be loved, and not just in some superficial way, but for that person in the eye of the storm to be fully seen, and heard, and accepted without pretense. Maybe even on some level . . . celebrated.

But in a wicked world, the weather forecast doesn’t look great. There are more storms on the horizon. Can our faith and hope hold out? Will we make it?

Every person and every worldview, in some way, aims at the same thing. A way to live and move in the world, a way to shine. Everyone wants to connect with some greater purpose and to find a love that is unconditional.

  The Disruptive Message of Christmas  

A unique quality of Christianity, and perhaps it’s most beautiful feature, amidst all our longing and reaching and hoping, is that this love which we all desperately desire, is not a goal to be accomplished, but a person who refuses to leave us lost in ourselves.

Author Max Lucado put it this way, “God loves you where you are, but he loves you too much to let you stay there.” That’s real love. The Apostle Paul once stood in the city of Athens and explained to their philosophers and poets that it is in this love — the love of God — that we live and move and have our being.

At the center of all of reality is love. It’s a love that invaded our world and left footprints in Palestine. It’s a love that once calmed the storms for others. And it offers the same for you and me. It’s a love that walks across troubled waters to find us in the midst of the wind and the waves. It’s a love that saves us even from ourselves.

It makes me think of the line from the late pastor Tim Keller, that goes something like, “the story of Christmas is that we could never get to God on our own, so God came to us.”

There is no greater love than this, a love that would lay itself down for friendship. This is the love of Christmas, the love of Jesus, and it is a bright light illuminating the path through a troubled world, offering us a place to belong and become. As John’s gospel says, this is the light the darkness can never overcome. It once shone brightly over a humble village called Bethlehem. And the darkness hasn’t overcome it yet. It’s shining still. It offers you a way.

But as you likely know, even with a bright flashlight or lantern, walking in the dark isn’t always easy. It can be scary. Having a light doesn’t undo all that. Life is still going to be challenging. Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got. But the light of Christmas gives us a way to live and move in this present darkness. Christmas offers us faith and hope. But it gives us even more. Of all the gifts of Christmas, the greatest is love.

The other virtues are shape-shifters. One day, faith will become sight. One day, fulfilled hopes will stand tall as a tree of life. But love . . . love will last forever.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Sincerely Yours,


Part One

Part Two (Faith)

Part Three (Hope)

Part Four (Love)