Prudence, Please

The hullabaloo over the pandemic of COVID-19 is, as most things in the world of public interactions, one of extremes.

On one side of things the broad distrust of the media industry and suspicion of anything that could be seen as a political ploy results in apathy toward what is surely no more of a concern than the common flu. I can see that to some degree.

On the other side, there is the panic at the thought of this virus decimating our country and bringing our health care system and entire economy to ruin. The outrage toward those who don’t see this as a serious matter is, in some sense, understandable.

But, despite the many voices in the world telling us that theirs is the only reasonable perspective, there is a great deal of ground in between the extremes.

I’m not a scientist and I don’t pretend to know the medical ins and outs of this situation. What I do know is that this is not beyond the scope and application of biblical wisdom.

Twice in the book of Proverbs we read these words (prompted by the Spirit of God but delivered through one of the most wealthy men that ever lived):

The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.

Proverbs 22.3; 27.12

SO… let’s get straight to it. It is FOOLISH to go on as if it’s nothing. But it is also FOOLISH to move into a bubble and forsake the rest of the world. It is PRUDENT to pay attention and take reasonable precautions.

The problem, as a follower of Jesus, for either of these extremes is one of self-centeredness.

On the one hand, those who are hoarding toilet paper (which NO ONE has been able to explain to me) and sealing themselves inside their own homes and pulling their kids out of school or anything else that might bring them in potential conflict with the unwashed masses are reacting entirely out of fear. Fear almost never leads to wise decisions.

On the other hand, those who insist that this is just all a campaign of media hype and there is no cause for concern and thus will not so much as take advice on how long and thoroughly to wash their hands are reacting entirely out of arrogance. This also almost never leads to wise decisions.

But the bigger issue here is that the vast majority of us are NOT going to be the ones to be killed by this virus. It’s those precious folks whose bodies are already worn down by age or disease or other compromising condition that will fall to this illness.

It’s my hope-filled and rambunctious nephews that have had more heart surgery in the first few years of life than most of us could endure in a lifetime…

It’s the very dear folks that I know and love who, now into their nineties, have a depth of experience-informed praying for us that I can hardly bear to part with…

The reasonable precautions of prudence are not for me and probably not for you. They are to protect those who can’t fight this thing. Our panic will not help them. Our apathy won’t either. Our prudence may keep them from having to fight this particular battle.

I have to ask: If we can’t be counted on to be diligent to wash our hands for the sake of “the least of these,” what hope do we have of ever learning to wash their feet?

So please, my brothers and sisters, don’t panic.

Please, my brothers and sisters, don’t act like it’s not there.

Let’s be more concerned about protecting the weak among us than we are about our convenience or preference or comfort.

Surely when we’ve done such for the least of these, we have done so unto Jesus himself.

More Than Ever

For 29 Valentine’s Days, she’s been my very own.

28 years of marriage, six kids birthed and raised and launched, several others by fostering and accepting and encouraging, 11 different homes, 12 vehicles, 8 church families, a few epic arguments, buckets and buckets of tears and a whole lot more laughter… and counting.

To look back at those wedding photos, it’s clear we were just kids. We were so excited to launch into this life together and had no idea what was in store. I thought I loved her then, but now more than ever.

She came across this song today and shared it and I listened… and cried.

(If you know me at all, you’re not surprised. I’m a cryer. It is what it is.)

It’s by a duo known as Out of the Dust. It says so much about where we are in life. You just need to give it a listen.

A marriage is intended by its Designer to be a place of absolute vulnerability and familiarity…

Darling, here we are
You know every strength and every scar
You’re seeing every part

It’s not a place that is found and fueled by feelings. It’s a decision to daily choose what is best for your partner…

Feelings change but that’s when love will say
Now more than ever
Write it on my heart for when it’s hard and we forget
Through joy and pain love will whisper
Now more than ever

But there’s so much more here.

This marriage thing (as I seem to be writing over and over again) is not simply a thing people decided to do. It’s not a societal construct or a cultural feature. It was the very first human relationship and it was created with a deep and powerful purpose—beyond procreation and comfort and companionship.

Marriage was made to show us our deep, deep need and God’s grand and glorious provision…

It’s still a mystery
That heaven fights through hell to help us see
There’s more than you and me
Our love is prophecy
It shows a broken world how it could be
It speaks through you and me

This indescribably precious gift that is my marriage is a vehicle through which God shows me my need for His redeeming and transforming grace, through which He shows me my need to live for someone beyond myself, through which He shows me how much He loves me.

It is my deep desire that everyone that knows us will see these truths in our marriage, that you will hear the song that we were made to sing…

Now more than ever.

Just As You Are

If you want to know what a great pop love song should be, the perfect example just might be Billy Joel’s masterpiece, “Just the Way You Are.”

When you take each piece – well-crafted, accessible lyrics, smooth and singable melody, a simple central notion – it’s a great combination. When you add to that like icing on an idyllic cake one of the most gorgeous and exquisite saxophone solos ever by the legendary Phil Woods, it’s musical magic.

If you’re not familiar or need a refresher, give it a listen.

Mr. Joel has many examples of his lyrical and musical artistry. But this one is perhaps the most famous of them all. I have a theory about why that is the case.

Deep within our hearts, there is a desire to be known and loved for who we are and not just who we might someday become. For someone to love us unconditionally just as we are is perhaps our deepest need.

When he penned these words, it seems Billy Joel was locked in on the need of the woman he loved to be accepted without any expectation of improvement in her appearance, her habits, her performance as a wife, or whatever other area of perceived expectation. We should all be so attuned.

Think about these lyrics:

I said I love you and that’s forever
And this I promise from the heart
I could not love you any better
I love you just the way you are

So why is this such a powerful message?

I believe it speaks to a need written deep upon our hearts to be loved unconditionally, sacrificially, and absolutely. It’s a love we were made to experience. In fact, it’s the love that motivated our creation in the first place.

I can say that with confidence because I have come to see the great Story that explains our existence and all of the innate needs. We have this need for this kind of love—a love that is not based upon our performance, our choices, our character, or anything other than the character of the One who loves us. We were made to know this love.

Of course, it seems so unusual, so unique, so impossible even. You and I both know that many people spend their entire lives looking for a love like that. But it’s been right there all along. The One who made us for Himself loved us so much that He came to be with us. He lay down His life for us. He conquered death for us.

And what does He ask from us in return?

Believe it.

Just accept this love and believe that He loves us just as we are.

But there’s more to this reality. God has invented this thing we call marriage to be a learning lab for this very love that He first gave us. He loved us just as we are and He gave us this unique kind of relationship in which to learn to do the same. We take a vow to love this person no matter what.

This kind of love—loving someone just the way they are—is also called grace. Marriage is the learning lab of grace. In the close quarters of sharing a home, a room, a bed, and everything else, we learn to love “even though.” We learn to let stuff go that doesn’t matter. We took a vow to love this person even if they never get better at stuff or improve their appearance or any other area of improvement.

We took a vow to love just like Jesus did.

So… this means that my beloved is mine to love and care for just as she is. Maybe you and I should go take our spouses by the hand and remind them.

“I love you just the way you are.”

(And don’t be afraid to sneak a little squeeze and a kiss while Phil Woods works his saxophone magic in the background.)