Lori and I fly into LA ostensibly for me to officiate the wedding of one of my daughter’s friends. The wedding is on the beach where we lived prior to God’s calling us to Colorado (“on the beach”… how “cool” is that!?). Friday night the rehearsal on the sand goes well. Yeah the marine layer moves in a little early… and the on shore breeze is brisk… but hey it’ll be great manana. (Note, while I tend to over plan for every contingency I still view myself as an optimist).
Following the rehearsal dinner fare I’m caught flat footed by the affection the two families express toward one another… I feel like a voyeur peeping in on the intimacy of others. I wonder why love surprises me… am I a cynic?
A little back story, lately I’ve been picturing,
The Apostle John in extreme old age at Ephesus being carried into the congregation in the arms of his disciples unable to say anything except “little children, love one another”. At last, wearied that he always spoke the same words, they asked: “Master, why do you always say this?” “Because”, he replied, “it is the Lord’s command, and if this only is done, it is enough”.*
As every broken, disappointing, sinful, foolish, evil and wacky person in my orbit scrolls across my mind I find the simplicity of the command to love God and others deeply disrupting and profoundly descriptive of my deepest desire. It is astonishing that in the presence of love I doubt it, run from it or am startled by it. The nature of these relationships unfolding in heartfelt tested words of appreciation and gratitude, a slide show and music speaks to the life I want so very much to live. I leave the dinner with a hunger to be the apostle John muttering over and over “Oh my friends, love one another… it is enough to love” from some deep true place.
The next day, Saturday, is the wedding and despite my unfailing optimism the marine layer blows in at hurricane category 4 strength. And so the wedding crowd of 100 is blown into a tight circle of family and friends. Prior to the bride’s entry the one girl who everyone’s eyes were upon was the one wearing the full length Alaska parka with fur lined hood… (A contingency option I did not consider). We were huddled like penguins on the sand as Claire and Doug’s magic moment unfolds.
Forsaking all others I choose you to love and cherish forever and always no matter the circumstances (richer or poorer, better or worse, joy or sorrow, sickness or health…) till death do we part I will be there for you.
They are so in love… so good for one another… so young… and beneath my pastoral smile is a smug/arrogant posture,
Ahh… it has taken Lori and me thirty-three years to reach that level of blissful raging agape self sacrifice!!!!
So with a weekend filled with wedding festivities, all-too-brief visits with our kids and a visit to our favorite taco joint we’re ready to face whatever United Airlines throws at us and return to Colorado. Up rolls the taxi we called for the eleven mile scamper up to LAX, the cabbie bounds out of the Chevy, flicks his cigarette butt in our friends rose garden and with a few hand motions and heavily accented broken English-grunts motions for us to get in… and so we do.
Now let me quickly insert that I’ve ridden many a taxi in the renowned cities of the world and survived! A taxi ride is a taxi ride… you go to Mac Donald's for cheap burgers, Home Depot for chain saws and taxi rides for near death experiences… right?
So we peel out of the driveway taking the first turn on two wheels! He’s breaking every speed law, dodging parked cars, cutting off slow pokes and alternating between “G” force accelerations and crash test braking (which includes some front end clanking and sharp veering to the right). About three blocks into the ride we can smell some combination of his cologne, hot brakes and radiator fluid. Somewhere between running a red light and nearly hitting an odd looking Dodger fan on single blade skates pushing a refrigerator across the pedestrian zone I’m getting a little annoyed at my wife…. Lori. She’s got a death grip on the back of his seat… she’s hyper-ventilating, gasping… she’s in some kind of a panic-funk and for some reason giving me the stink eye. She’s stressing … a bit over dramatic and I’m thinking “Hey… pull it together woman… it’s an E ticket, what do you expect”
We get to the airport and she’s not speaking to me. What’s with that?
So in true “husbands love your wife as Christ loves the church” fashion I feign ignorance and compassion asking, “What’s wrong with you?” To which she responds with “stink eye” times ten… saying so much more than the words spoken convey, I don’t want to talk about it”. After a calming glass of wine and a long eighteen minutes she begins to cry and with shaking voice share with me how she’s never been more terrified for her life and that I totally missed/abandoned/failed her.
And I did. I missed/abandoned/failed her. Totally. I could have/should have done something… I wish I had done something, anything. I did nothing. That’s not the man I want to be.
Little children love one another. Till death do we part I will be there for you.
I’m a much better lover now than I was ten years ago but there’s still a little more ground to cover before I’m a finished model of blissful raging agape self sacrifice. – Craig McConnell
* Commentator/expositor John Stott in his commentary on The Epistles of John cites Jerome’s re-telling of this story of ‘blessed John the evangelist’.