30 Seconds to Disaster. The cause of tragedy “way back there” in the innocuous and random thing we call living. Always something – or someone – or some best practice – found to be the reason. Invisible and of no importance until …
I was reading about John the Baptiser’s demise in this morning’s verses: Mark 6:17-29. The Living Word delivered an angle I have not seen before:
a) “But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man.” (v 19/20)
b) “So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head.” (v27)
Herod has some authority. He was a king. But we all have some authority. I do. I am a husband and father, a skilled worker and employee, an experienced fixer and doer, a writer and speaker (in training). I have gravitas in certain situations. And I protect those I love. I protect those I love because that IS love. So what “angle” did He bring me this morning?
Ownership and object is what.
Seems to me that when we protect someone we love, it is a small step to ownership of the object of my love. I have skills and strength they don’t. They are weak and I am strong. They are not equipped and I am – this is not just a “man thing”- it is an “I love you” thing. And all (usually) without the explicit knowledge (or agreement) of the object of our desire and affection.
That is not to say the “object” will not make full use of, even expect and demand, this protection. Sometimes that works. For a long time that can work. Until that becomes the cause of resentment in the “object” towards the “protection provider” (or vice versa) – a demand that the protection is removed / cranked up (love is confusing).
And here is where He took us …
Ownership without awareness. Love that is conditional. Shallow “love”. Convenient “loyalty”. Never spoken as such. Never contracted as such. Because when we contract to the “I will love you” – what is it that we are contracting? The traditional church vows are these:
“In the name of God, I, (name), take you, (name), to be my husband/wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish all the days of my life. This is my solemn vow.”
No protection. There is no “protection” – not as an explicit action – not as a requirement – not as a necessary provision of the provider to the object of the contract. I was surprised (but it has been a very long time since I said those words).
So how to avoid that transition to “protection”? How to allow “the object” to be self-sufficient? Surely when our loved one is struggling, up against it, on their own against the world, amongst others who wish them harm … isn’t that when our love MUST be “active love” … ? Isn’t that when we MUST fight and protect and keep safe our loved one against all the odds? Isn’t THAT true love – proper love – unconditional love? I would say yes (and have for decades). But this morning I wonder …doesn’t that (again) have potential to take away someone else’s choice? And where do we draw the line between danger and habit – and where does habit stop and danger begin (and I repeat this is not a “man thing”, this in an “I love you” thing)?
And this morning I wonder how much “possession and object” is ME rather than love.
Because what goes through my head (our heads?) is this … No one talks to MY wife like that! No one treats MY partner like that! He’s MINE – keep your hands to yourself! Why did you let her do that to you? Why didn’t you say no – I would have said no … ? And then reaches this destination … If you loved me you wouldn’t behave like that! If you really loved me you wouldn’t treat me like this. If you “really” loved me …
And then love itself is an object to be tested, to be compared (always an unreliable activity), and to be discarded (because the grass is always greener and all that).
30 Seconds to Disaster can take years before that quick and final countdown. Always years of the innocuous and random thing we call living and loving as “unconditional” invisibly and innocuously transitions into “conditional”.
Because when love becomes “it” – love has already become “conditional” – has become something to compare and discard … has become “ownership” and “object”.
And could that ever happen to us good Christians who have been saved? Could we ever see God and Jesus, the bible and the Holy Spirit, our salvation and destination, our eternity and heaven-bound admission ticket … Could we ever transition our unconditional love into conditional love and then into ownership – and all without any malice or awareness at all?
I think yes.
And that is why, for me, the Living Word must be living. Why journeying must always be journeying. Why never reaching my destination must always be at least one more step. Because when it comes to love and/or God stuff – everything else is conditional. And always MY conditions – MY standards – MY comparison – MY rules – MY version of an impersonal God – MY defined object – and MY ownership of object (or “God” by another name).
I am passionate that relationship must live and breathe – that The Living Word must live and breathe – that my relationships with those I love including God Soft Hands Jesus must live always.
How else will MY love remain as unconditional as His?