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Tag Archives: Friendship

God Doesn’t Leave Voicemail

Imagine you have a long-distance best friend. Maybe you already do, so it isn’t hard to imagine. Anyway, it’s been a while since your last visit, and your friend decides to give you a call. You don’t answer. They text instead. You don’t respond. After a week goes by, they stalk your Facebook wall to make sure you’re alive. Yep, you posted at work that morning about your delicious breakfast burrito. There are pictures from the last night when you went bowling with some friends. Your friend decides your phone must be broken and posts to your wall an inside joke about a porcupine, knowing you’re the only person who would get it.

No reply.

Months go by. Your friend eventually gives up trying to reach you.

One day you see a porcupine on TV. You remember your friend and decide to give them a call. They don’t answer. You try again but it goes directly to voicemail. As time goes on without reciprocation, you first feel annoyed. Then irritated. You wonder if they are intentionally ignoring you. Maybe they don’t care about you anymore. Maybe they never did.

On the other end of the line, your hurt friend watches their phone ring and wonders if they want to answer after you wouldn’t answer their own calls. After being neglected for long months, why should they pick up where you left off? Why should they still call you a friend?

Credit: Robert S. Digby, Creative Commons (https://flic.kr/p/7rKqYa)

Credit: Robert S. Digby, Creative Commons (https://flic.kr/p/7rKqYa)

In Isaiah 65, the Lord declares curses on his people of Israel who had rebelled against him and served other gods. They abandoned him. They ignored him. So God replies, “I will destine you for the sword, and all of you will fall in the slaughter; for I called but you did not answer, I spoke but you did not listen. You did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me” (v. 12). But for the one who obeys the one true God, he promises to bless them and “the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes” (v. 16). He then describes a day of “new heavens and a new earth” when rejoicing will replace all suffering. In that day, he says, “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” (v. 17, 24).

When times are good, we often let God’s calls go to voicemail. We assume we’re doing fine on our own and that he’ll still be there when we need him. Then a crisis appears, and we wonder why God isn’t answering our cries for help. We ask why God is silent.

Now I don’t want to imply God is a resentful friend harboring old hurts, but why should we expect to hear from him after ignoring his attempts at contact? Is that a healthy relationship? If we’re not listening to his voice in good times, how are we going to receive a word from him when times are hard? God might not be the one who grew distant.

Do you need to apologize and ask forgiveness for ignoring God?

“Please leave a message after the tone.”

Beep.

“Hi, friend. Sorry I’ve been a jerk. I should have returned your calls. Will you forgive me?”

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2014 in Other thoughts

 

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Love Isn’t Always a Chick-Flick

I finished reading The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis while riding a bus into downtown Seattle. I told you a month ago that I bought this book at Powell’s Books by a friend’s recommendation. It was a good read with plenty to think about on every page, so it takes some time even though it is only 141 pages. My strategy was to read a few pages at a time while eating breakfast, or riding the bus when I only had half a chapter to go.

If you’ve never heard of this book, C. S. Lewis describes and analyzes the four main categories of love that humans experience. He calls these: affection, friendship, eros, and charity.

  • Affection generally applies to relationships like between parents and their children where the love is demonstrated as care and concern. In these relationships, affection is taken for granted and assumed to be something inherently deserved (a parent is expected to care for the child).
  • Friendship is usually seen between members of the same gender, according to Lewis, and it forms because the friends find something in common that separates them from other people (like stamp collecting or the dream to start a petting zoo).
  • While friendship is focused on some common outward direction, Lewis calls an inward-focused love “eros.” “When I spoke of Friends as side by side or shoulder to shoulder I was pointing a necessary contrast between their posture and that of the lovers whom we picture face to face,” Lewis writes. Romantic lovers share eros. When we talk about “falling in love,” we mean “eros.”
  • Finally, there’s charity. Out of the four loves, Lewis says this is the only one that doesn’t come naturally. It instead comes directly by God’s grace to be either given or received.

Charity is probably the one love our culture commonly ignores beyond the rest. Listening to popular music and watching recent movies, it would seem as if we worshiped eros. Interestingly, Lewis says friendship is equal to eros and as necessary. Affection, too, is important. But above these, charity deserves the most notice, if only for its distinctiveness of coming directly from God.

God is compared to the roles of a Father, a Friend, and a Lover, but he actually shares charity with us instead of any of the other loves in our world. Often, he loves us in this way through other people. “In reality we all need at times, some of us at most times, that Charity from others which, being Love Himself in them, loves the unlovable,” says Lewis. “But this, though a sort of love we need, is not the sort we want. We want to be loved for our cleverness, beauty, generosity, fairness, usefulness.” So even though charity surpasses the other loves, and in fact, imitates the love of God himself, it’s still the one we neglect.

God is love, and Lewis says, “He communicates to men a share of His own Gift-love.” Charity seeks the good for a loved one that the loved one may not necessarily want or ask for, but it is no less good for the loved one. And with charity, we have the grace to love anyone even despite lacking anything that could make them deserving of love. “Divine Gift-love in the man enables him to love what is not naturally lovable; lepers, criminals, enemies, morons, the sulky, the superior and the sneering,” says Lewis.

We also have grace to love God back. “There is of course a sense in which no one can give to God anything which is not already His; and if it is already His what have you given?” says Lewis. “But since it is only too obvious that we can withhold ourselves, our wills and hearts, from God, we can, in that sense, also give them.” That’s what Christianity is all about, isn’t it? To be loved by God and to love him back?

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2012 in Books

 

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