Tag Archives: love

A Love Like No Other.

Steve Prefontaine was supposed to be the greatest distance runner in American history. Had he not died at the tender age of 24, he probably would have been.

Pre, as he was called, liked to run out front, way ahead of the pack. He made a show of racing because he thought of running as art. His coaches begged him to run with strategy, to hold back and let others do the work. But Pre was famous for saying that he ran, not to win, but to see who had the most guts.

Because of that, he sometimes lost races he could have won.

Like Jesus.

The world says we should temper our love, look out for ourselves first, and be suspicious of our enemies. But Jesus says to turn the other cheek, give to those who ask, and pray for our enemies.

It wasn’t logical for Pre to run like he did. He would have been more successful had he not. But Pre said that when he ran he wanted people to stop and say, “I’ve never seen anyone run like that.”

Sometimes people ask me why Jesus had to die on a cross. It’s a good question. And there are probably a handful of good answers.

But one of them has to be that he wanted us to see him there and say, “I’ve never seen anyone love like that.”

we never dance alone

“Jazz class,” she said to me. “Intermediate Dance. It’ll be fun.”

She was my college sweetheart, and the jazz class she spoke of represented the final credits I needed to graduate.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Will there be actual dancing involved?”

“It’s a dance class.”

“Right.”

I should have shut it down. I didn’t need this headache. I needed one class. But you know how love works. She batted her eyes.

“Well,” I said, “maybe we should sign up for Beginner’s Jazz. Intermediate sounds serious.”

“Are you calling me a bad dancer?”

“No,” I said. “I’m calling me a bad dancer.”

Her eyes stopped batting.

“I thought it’d be special to take this class together. But if you feel differently, that’s fine.”

A week later I found myself in Intermediate Jazz.

The professor handed out the syllabus. I read my execution orders. FINAL EXAM: EACH STUDENT WILL CHOREOGRAPH AND PERFORM A SOLO DANCE.

My very first panic attack.

I tried to walk out, but you know what happened. Those eyes started up again. So I stayed, hid in the back row, and tried not to think about stepping out from the group and dancing on my own.

In the Gospel, Jesus constantly asked people to step out from the group.”Follow me,” he said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” In other words, “Come with me and I’ll teach you the ways of God.”

And people did. And they changed the world.

What I love is that it was never supposed to happen.

Jewish Rabbis didn’t go looking for students. Students went looking for a Rabbi. And only the best were allowed to follow. A Rabbi recruiting random students was ridiculous.

It’d be like Harvard Law admitting the first 50 people who liked their Facebook page. It’s not how these things work.

But it’s how Jesus worked. And it’s how he works today. He calls everyone and accepts anyone who’s interested.

The great Irish theologian, Bono, said, “It used to shock me that the Scriptures are brim full of hustlers, murderers, cowards, and adulterers. But now it’s a source of great comfort.”

Me too, Bono. We should hang out.

What a relief that the Bible isn’t about perfect little angels who do everything right. If it was, I couldn’t read it.

Thank God it’s about people—damaged, guilty, scared—whom God sweeps into His arms, heals, and uses to change the world.

Jesus wasn’t turned off by the rap sheets of his first disciples, and he isn’t turned off by yours either. One of the more destructive lies we tell ourselves is that we don’t deserve to be used by God, that something in our past disqualifies us.

No. We serve a God of second chances, a God who uses broken things to make the world whole.

I was talking to a young girl who’d been called some ugly things. I tried to tell her about the good I saw in her, but she stopped me and said, “If you knew the things I did, you wouldn’t like me.”

It hit me: that’s how we feel about God. We believe He loves us, but we don’t believe He likes us. At least not enough to use us. He has priests and missionaries for that, people who aren’t quite so broken.

But it’s not true. Jesus used regular, flawed people to set the world on fire with love.

God doesn’t just love you. He likes you. He chose you. And He’ll use you. The only question is whether you’ll let Him.

Following Jesus doesn’t mean abandoning your life and moving to Calcutta. It can be done right where you are.

“But I don’t know how,” you might say.

Me neither. That’s why Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” That’s the good news. We don’t do it on our own. We can’t, which is why we follow.

Which brings me back to love, because when you love someone you’ll follow them anywhere.

Which brings me back to Intermediate Jazz and my final exam.

I’ve never been a shy person but that day I wanted to find a rock and die under it. But I couldn’t, because I needed to graduate.

So I stepped out from the group and danced alone. And for a minute or two, it was OK. But then it happened. My ears stopped working. I couldn’t hear the music. I froze and felt so stupid.

But then someone started clapping to the music. And she kept clapping until I found the beat and finished my dance.

That may seem trivial to you, but it isn’t to me. She rescued me and I’ll never forget it.

Following Jesus will take us into uncomfortable territory. We will be stretched.

But here’s what I know. The God who calls us, goes ahead of us. And when we lose the music, and can’t find the beat, a pair of hands will appear.

And they will clap.

And they will clap.

Until we all finish our dance.

Grinding.

One of the biggest myths of our culture is that nobody loves their work.

It’s not true but a lot of people believe it; in part because so many people hate their jobs. A job, for a lot of people, is nothing more than a means to do an end. And to a certain degree, that’s ok. Sometimes a job is a paycheck and those paychecks serve crucial and often providential purposes. Having money is a good thing. And nobody should be criticized for doing something they don’t like in order to make ends meet. In fact, they should probably be praised.

But not everyone hates the work they do. Certain people refuse to approach work as simply a means to end. Instead, the work is an end in itself because it’s also a passion.

Two nights ago I asked a buddy how his day went. His eyes popped bright. “Great. My day was great,” he said.

My buddy is in the midst of a grueling medical residency and he works ridiculously long hours. So I asked him if something special happened; what made it so great?

“I got to operate all day.”

Think about that. The guy was on his feet doing things that are beyond complicated, while under enormous stress, and he loved every second of it.

Why? Because he’s living his passion. Is it hard? Yes. Frustrating and exhausting? Yes. Is it work? You bet.

And he loves it.

I think we have a duty to find work we love. I truly believe that. Even if we can’t do it full-time, it’s still our responsibility to find some kind of work we enjoy. Because if we don’t — if our joy only comes from non-work activities — we miss out on a really rich piece of life. There are few states of mind so fulfilling as having created something excellent, and reveled in the process.

Why am I talking about this?

Because writing is work, even though it’s a passion.

People ask me a lot about how often I sit down to write.

My answer is always the same: Every day.

There are  geniuses who can sit down on a whim and crank out a masterpiece. I am not one of them. If I write anything of value it’s because I’ve worked really hard. Period. To create the art I love so much I must place myself in front of the keyboard and  grind the words out onto the page.

Hour after hour.

Day after day.

Just like any other job.

Great writing, 99.9 percent of the time, is a product of hard-fought work — not sudden epiphany with a glass of wine in hand. Although, it’s really sweet when that happens.

Einstein put it this way: “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

That’s the  question: How long are we willing to sit? How bad do we want to see our vision realized?

I want it bad.

You?