My love for you is not based on a law; nor could it even be. After all, there is no law that can force people to love each other.
Same thing goes for my love for Mommy. Sure, we have a marriage license (as recognized by the state of Tennessee) and were were married in a church (in front of God and other believers)… but I can’t be forced to love Mommy, or you.
Yet I do anyway. I choose to. I want to.
On a global scale, I believe that if everyone truly loved each other as much as they did themselves, the world wouldn’t need laws; nor would there be wars… nor would there be rich people or poor people, escpecially to the degree that people are starving.
Despite a person’s acceptance level in regards to Jesus and what He taught and claimed, I think there’s no denying He spoke some truth when He summarized it this way:
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ -Matthew 22:37-39
But since not everyone does love their neighbors as much as they do themselves, the pattern of brokenness repeats itself.
I used to be a much more openly political person; thinking that my public beliefs as a [Republican or Democrat] would help convince the [opposing political party] to join “the side that truly cares more about helping people.”
But I was wrong to think that way. I was too focused on thinking that if our government would change laws to suit [my political affiliation] at the time, it would force people to stop doing the things that my religion teaches against.
I realize now, the law doesn’t prevent people from hurting each other. Nor does it change a person’s heart.
At best, when a person breaks the law and is incarcerated, it just puts them in a temporary time-out (jail or prison), yet that person (in most cases) doesn’t actually become reformed and redeemed.
Without a true change of heart… without a person truly having the mindset to love other people as much of they do themselves, how can they break that pattern and lifestyle?
And on the flip side, while it’s always the individual’s choice to commit a crime or hurt another person in some way, I do consider how that person’s home life and environment could have led them to make that destructive decision.
Had that person been more loved by those around him, maybe (not definitely) there’s a good chance he would have never headed down the path he did.
Meanwhile, my version of reality has been much different…
I realize that being a middle class American as long as I’ve been alive has given me major advantages and privileges in life; ones that you will have as well. However, I understand those advantages and privileges come with great responsibility. I try to consider this concept:
If I become richer, other people in the world are probably becoming poorer. If I become better well-known, other people in the world are probably becoming more forgotten. If I have too much, it means other people in the world probably don’t have enough.
I am light years away from perfecting this “love your neighbor as yourself” concept in my life, but I have a feeling that if I’m mindfully teaching it to you, I can take a few steps in the right direction.
This past Saturday morning, we hung out with some of your friends from school, at Home Depot. While the project was assembling a wooden race car, you were actually much more excited by the free, endless supply of balloons.
Despite the ongoing “balloon fights” (like a pillow fight) between you (the only boy) and the three girls, there was no crying. Just good clean fun; hitting each other in the face with balloons.
I really enjoyed the show!
Mommy and I let you bring three of the balloons home. Mind you, these are just plain balloons that I blew up myself- no helium.
Later that day, after you woke up from your nap, we bought groceries at Kroger, where Mommy and I have let you get into this (bad?) habit of choosing a new Hot Wheels car each week (hey, it’s just 98 cents).
However, when I let you check out the cars selection, a blue cheetah doll caught your attention instead. Fortunately, it just so happened that this particular blue cheetah was in the wrong section and the tags had been removed.
I took you to the general manager to find out how much it cost, and for you, he agreed to $ 2.99. You must have charmed him, because had it had the price tag on it, it would have cost $14.99.
You still had enough Christmas money to afford it, so you bought it; and boy have you been proud of “Cheety” since then.
So Saturday night, as we were getting ready for dinner, I walked by the coffee table and caught you “writing” (scribbling) on a notepad with a yellow highlighter.
You were quietly “reading” out loud what you were writing:
“Thank you for my balloons and blue cheetah…”.
Once you realized I had heard you, you stopped. I was way too curious not to ask you what was going on.
“Jack, who are you writing that letter to?”
I almost already knew what you were going to say- and I was right:
I can’t argue with your logic. If it weren’t for God, we wouldn’t have balloons or blue cheetahs.
One of your new phrases that you’ve recently picked up is “oh my gosh.”
To some, that may not seem like a big deal. But for our family, it’s not something we take lightly.
“Oh my gosh” is lesser form of “oh my God,” which in my book, is a way of breaking one of the Ten Commandments: It’s referencing the Lord’s name in a trivial way; not in a reverent way.
I feel it’s my job to help you understand the difference in when it is and is not appropriate to use God’s name.
Here lately, you’re really getting curious about being more involved when our family prays together at dinner time.
Last night after I prayed while the three of us held hands before dinner, we all said “amen.” But you kept holding our hands, like you wanted to pray too.
So with Mommy’s encouragement, you paused, then simply said, “amen.” Hey, it’s a start- and I think that’s pretty cool of you to want to participate like that.
Whereas praying to God is the right way to use His name, randomly saying “oh my gosh” is a way to sort of indirectly tear down the holiness of God’s name.
It’s funny, because if you were 10 years-old and saying “oh my God,” I would be relieved for you to start saying “oh my gosh” instead.
But since you’re only 3, “what in the world?” is the phrase we are teaching you to say as a substitute for any form of “OMG.”
However, “oh my gosh” is everywhere.
It’s in kids’ movies and TV shows. You have friends who say it at school. I never thought much of it until it became a phrase I didn’t want you to say.
To be clear, I don’t find “OMG” to be offensive when others say it, because I don’t see how that personally concerns me. I see it as an issue between an individual person and God in regards to how they use His name.
But for us, as a family, it’s a decision we have made, based on the teachings of our faith.
So while it might sound trivial, I’m going to steer you away from “OMG” and redirect you to “what in the world?”
Even if it’s normal and everyone else does it. Even Mater and Lightning McQueen.
On Christmas Eve, shortly after “the nice man” drove to Nonna and Papa’s house to bring me the 2014 Lexus LS 460 to review, you and your cousin Calla both crashed for a much needed nap.
Under the care of your grandparents, that meant that Mommy and I, along with Auntie Dana (my sister) and Uncle Andrew, could do whatever in the world we wanted to on that cold yet sunny December afternoon.
Given that there was a brand new Lexus LS 460 sitting in the driveway, we hit the road!
At this point in the letter, I need you to start the soundtack, which is a song called “Flowers In Your Hair,” by The Lumineers:
It’s just that the pictures you’re about to see and the randomness of what you’re about to read is best complimented by such an appropriate song.
We decided to hit the mountaintop freeway, aimlessly headed towards Little River Canyon, where we took you in the 2014 Toyota Tundra we borrowed for your 3rd birthday.
I suggested we hang a left turn onto a barely visible side road next to an old fishing tackle shop.
Fate would have it, the four of us would happen upon a perfectly Americana-style, old abandoned church.
So we checked it out, as any young Generation Y parents would do.
The doors and windows were all gone. A “no trespassing” sign was nowhere to be found.
As we entered the church, it felt like a mix between Jacob’s cabin in the woods on Lost and being in a music video for The Lumineers.
All that we could find in the church was what was left of an antique piano and a once comfy chair.
I liked how the ceiling was painted a dull teal color, for no apparent reason.
How in the world has this place been left in tact all this time? No punk teenagers or meth heads have taken advantage of the situation.
Not even a killer brown bear.
Just an old abandoned church that surprisingly wasn’t creepy.
While I was exploring the place, I thought about all the people, who have all surely passed on from this life by now, but who knew that church as a major part of life.
They learned about God and the teachings of Jesus and the journey to Heaven. Those people made their way out in the ice and snow and sun to see their friends and fellow believers each Sunday morning. There is even a river behind the church where they surely baptized those who were lost but had been found.
That church was a big deal to them. I didn’t take it lightly to be standing on what, especially at one time, was holy ground.
So there you have it. That’s the kind of thing your parents do when you’re asleep and your grandparents are there to watch you.
Isn’t it weird to think that, in theory, I have a life separate from you? To think that I seek entertainment and nostalgia and new memories too…
You get that from me, you know.
Disclaimer: The vehicle mentioned in this story was provided at the expense of Lexus, for the purpose of reviewing.
P.S. Here’s a collection of my Toyota family reviews so far; just click on title to read the full story:
I won’t quote the whole thing here, but the last few lines of it really stood out to me:
“Two thousand years have come and gone, and today He is the central figure for much of the human race. All the armies that have ever marched and all the navies that have ever sailed and all the parliments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as this “One Solitary Life.’”
It’s pretty fascinating to me that if Jesus wasn’t who He claimed to be, which is the Son of God and the predicted Messiah of the prophecies in the Old Testament, then He was simply the most famous and influencial deceiver to have ever lived on the earth.
That means He’s fooled millions of people in the past couple thousand years. That means, back in His day, he caused quite a political uproar over… nothing. In that case, it was all just a hoax.
As C.S. Lewis famously put it, Jesus is either “lunatic, liar, or Lord.”
But again, if He was simply a crazy man or false prophet, He’s the most famous and influential one there’s ever been, to simply have been just a man.
Or, Jesus really is who He said He is, and He’s still the most famous and influential man who has ever lived.
This is the same man who this time of year is better known as the baby born in Bethlehem.
The way I look at it; even if at the end of my life I was wrong about God this entire time and when we die, we just die and that’s it, I still wouldn’t regret having believed. Because if nothing else, I had a sense of hope amidst all of life’s uncertainties.
Throughout all the traditional Santa and reindeer stuff we enjoy this time of year, I’m still distracted by the Jesus part of Christmas.
If Christmas was simply about candy canes and snowmen, and still managed to be this big of a deal to everyone, I would really be questioning why we celebrate it.
But I know the basis of this holiday season is deeper than that, and even more than just “the spirit of giving.” It still comes down to a baby in a manger who went on to live the most famous and influential life… ever.
And as I raise you to believe in Him, if He was really just a liar or a lunatic instead, I guess that makes me one of those things too.