Friday, September 17, 2004

Learn to Love

When you get to be my age (55 at the time of this writing), you have a lot of friends who have been collecting things for a while. Or your parents die and you find out how much stuff they collected. And you begin to wonder, "What is all this stuff for?" I am sitting in a room with bookshelves and a rough estimate indicates that they contain around 750 books. That's on one set of shelves. There are more in the bedroom and in my office. What am I doing with so many books? I don't even pay attention to more than a dozen or so of them in a year. It makes me wonder why I collected all those books.

In fact, I wonder, "What am I doing here?" Is life all about collecting stuff or trying to impress people with all the stuff you collected? Because, you're not taking it with you, you know. And even if what you have been doing is not trying to amass stuff, you have to ask that question, "What am I doing here? Is there a purpose to my life?"

Of course, there is a reason I am asking this question now with more intensity than I might have asked it thirty years ago. I'm at that stage of life that is concerned with generativity. The boys are grown and married. They have their own lives. I have poured everything into them that I will get a chance to do. My wife and I have a better relationship now than ever, so I am not struggling to make that relationship work. I can actually see some progress at work and at church. But what is it for? Why not just die and be with Jesus?

Apparently I still have some lessons to learn. Upon considerable reflection, it appears to me that they have to do with learning to love. How do I receive love; how do I give love? I have been far too interested in myself to pay attention to that quest. Love entails commitment and sacrifice. It is a matter of will, not emotion. Learning how to receive love entails releasing your pride so that you can actually enjoy being loved. It is humbling to be loved. You can't be proud and receive love.

And as near as I can figure, being able to love is the prime skill used in the afterlife. So I had better get good at it here, or at least, as good as possible. Because I will die. You, too. And you don't want to be hindered by an undernourished aptitude for love.

No wonder the angels are curious about us humans. You think that the angels doubt the love of God? Not on your life. But people, yeah, we can certainly doubt the love of God. That is the gift of being human--we can doubt God's love. That also means that we can discover God's love and have some inkling of its value. We can know from what hell we are rescued. The angels don't get to do that.

So, I want to keep learning how to love--giving and receiving. It makes this life make sense.