The Question We Need to Hear When Saying “I Love You.”

1417514_10151936903281251_319192846_oIt would have been in the late Fall of 1983, years ago and just yesterday. These college juniors had started dating again.  The first time was a year before and it didn’t go so well.  That’s a story for another time. But after a year of growing up and becoming friends they thought they just might try it again.  It was different.

After a couple of months of hanging out, dating a bit, getting chummy and feeling like this was more than just a fun little romance, the young man wanted to express the depth of his feelings.  So he arranged an evening, pulling out all the stops.  He had it figured out and she was willing to go along for the ride.  It was dinner at the Magic Pan, a crepe restaurant in downtown Chicago.  Without Uber, they bundled up and walked the mile to the restaurant hand in hand. They had a nice dinner and then walked toward Water Tower Place.  There he planned to take her on a ride they had admired and talked about before – a horse-drawn carriage.  Somewhere along the way, he bought her some flowers – roses, I believe.  As they walked toward the carriages, it was cold, so they chose one with the top up. After all, it was alone-time he was looking for.  This was going to be a big night.

She seemed happy and a bit impressed with every gesture.  And he was proud, but nervous.  They rode a while in quiet, with his arm around her, keeping her protected from the cold nip of the Fall night.  As the horses clippity-clopped on the city street, he started to stammer.  This was it, the reason for the evening.  His words were something like, “Kris, the reason for tonight i-i-is, I wanted to t-t-tell you something.  She asked, “What is it?”  He said, “Well, I wanted you to know, I love you.”  Ta-da!  (play music to crescendo!)  It all led to this!  The dinner, the flowers, the 2 mile stroll, the carriage ride!  He could breathe again.

And then there were these two words, that felt like the stereo needle being dragged across your favorite vinyl album (kids, ask your parents). It was two words when he expected 3, or maybe 4.  Two words that made me think about his future… forever.  Two words that would make him examine the depths of his own heart, his emotions and the strength of his will.  These two words peeled back any romantic veneer that may have been put on the evening.  These two words formed as a question that made him, for an instant and for a life-time, question the nature of his love.  “Do you?,” she asked.

“I love you” should bring a response of, “I love you too!”  But not, “Do you?”  Who asks, “Do you?”  She did.  I knew instantly what she was asking.  She was asking if I was ready to change my life?  She wanted to know if this was an attempt to impress, or if this was a commitment.  Was this an evening, an event, a season, or a life I wanted?

Realizing exactly what she was asking, I was quiet for a moment and then I said, “Yes, I do love you.”  That is what I wanted. She was the one I wanted to give myself to.  She was the one I would change my life for.  When she was sure I knew what I was saying to her, she squeezed my arm and said, “I love you too.”

That was a big night that helped set the direction of a relationship that has lasted for 35+ years. How grateful I am that she asked me that question.  I don’t know that it really changed how I felt, or that it changed the commitment I was ready to make.  But it clarified the decision we were making. It cut through the fluff and laid a foundation that has anchored our lives together ever since.

So often, there are correlations in our human relationships and our relationship with Christ.  When I come to Jesus needy and longing.  And he gives me his joy.  He gives me his love.  He forgives me my sin. It is easy to say, “Oh, Jesus I love you!”  We sing the songs, we read the warm passages of Scripture, we hug the people around us.  We feel it, “Jesus, I love you.”  I hear those two words in my spirit, “Do you?”  How could he ask?  He asks for us.  We need to hear his question.  Are you ready to change your life?  Is this love a commitment or just a feeling? Is this an experience, a moment, a season, or is it a life that you want?  Only you can answer the question for yourself.  If you answer his question by saying, “Yes Lord, I love you.” It will set the foundation for a journey you couldn’t create on your own.

By all means, tell Jesus you love him because he does love you and he always has.  Just remember what you’re saying.

Thank you Kris, for asking me that question! I love you… yes I do!

You are God’s Beautiful Boys and Girls

beautiful-boy-film-chalamet-carell.pngLast Saturday, my son and I went to see the movie “Beautiful Boy.”  I wasn’t sure what I would experience, though I was pretty sure it was going to be a heavy movie.  It was.  When the movie ended, the place was silent except for a few sniffles here and there.  It is a story of addiction.  And it doesn’t end in a fake, movie-like, happily every after way.  It is based on a true story, written by David Sheff.  It shows the pain and process of loving a kid with addictions.  As I sat there, I found myself feeling pain for those I know who have had children and siblings struggling with the horrors of addiction.

There was one line that stuck out to me.  It was said during a scene at an Narcotics Anonymous (NA) group session.  When the kid said his addiction was a disease, he was corrected by the group as they recited together something like, “Addiction isn’t the disease, but my way of treating the disease.”  In essence they were saying that the path to addiction begins because there is something else wrong on the inside.  This is profound.  As long as we treat the symptom without dealing with the issue, we will miss the cure.

This week I was visiting with a parent who said his 16 year old announced to him that she thinks she is transexual. Like most of us parents would be, he was floored.  His little girl, who he thought he knew was having doubts about the very essence of her identity.  And he didn’t know how to respond, or what to do next.  Is this another case where culture has pointed our kids to a solution that misses the problem altogether?  Is it another way of treating what is the real issue and do we run the danger of missing the cure?

These issues aren’t just for the young.  I’ve spoken to adults that have jumped from one spouse to another, to another.  They repeat the pattern all the while trying to treat their unhappiness, their frustrations, their anger. And they end up taking their unchanged self into the next relationship hoping this time they’ve found the answer.  But again, they’ve been misdiagnosed and the real cure eludes them.

Some of us do this with pills.  Some of us do this with career moves.  Some of us do it with porn.  Some of us do it with sexuality. Some of us do this with out-of-contol emotions.  Some of us do this with a new commitment to a new morality.  This is so engrained in us that pastors can even do this with ministry. It is the common human approach to finding the cure to our ache, our loneliness, our identity questions, our search for belonging and meaning.  We keep buying into the misdiagnosis and the next fake cure.

What is our disease?  Our disease is that we have left the only One (or keep leaving the One) who knows us to our core and loves us.  Our disease is that we keep trying to fabricate lives with things that can’t bear the weight of eternity.  Our disease is a pride that says, “We’ve got this.” when our lives tell a different story.  Our disease is living in independence from the One who made us with the potential of eternity and deep fellowship with the Divine.

If this is our disease, what is our cure?  Hear and embrace this…

  1. We are created in the image of God.  This doesn’t mean that everything in our life, personality, or desires are given or approved by God.  But it means that our existence has an eternal intention to it.  We are no accident.  And we are created with the potential of eternity and deep fellowship with the Divine.
  2. God invites us back to him.  God, like the Dad we all long for, looks past our crap and failed attempts a self-cure to wait for us with eagerness to embrace us and heal us.
  3. His Son, Jesus is the way to healing. He came to carry our pain and show us life.  He restores our call, our purpose, our hope of being changed and having the life we were made for.
  4. Once we’ve recognized our disease, separation from our God; and the cure, God’s rescuing love; we are freed to discover the joy of living in His presence and being changed by His love.

This sounds simple, but it is life-altering.  If accepted, it reshapes everything within us.  It reorients the core of our being around the Being of the seen and unseen universe.

The questions, the pain, the process may remain for a while, or a lifetime, but we find that God walks in the way with us.  Life is still a place a learning.  It’s a path of growth.  It’s not easy.  But Christ’s presence keeps us rooted, sure, secure and hopeful in the middle of it all. And he has provided others who are walking the journey, so we need not do it alone.

I have found that God and His Son, Jesus believe we are beautiful boys and girls.  Accepting that, in the middle of mixed emotions, is the beginning of the cure.  The rest of the cure is to let Him restore us to the lives He made us for.

Comments, Hopes, Needs, Questions??  Thanks for your time in reading, commenting and sharing.