An Average Love

I'm out of town with the boys this week, so my husband Brad has graciously agreed to guest post. He says if it works out, he's going to launch a competing blog called Gracefuller.

I feel like Admiral James Stockdale, Ross Perot’s 1992 vice-presidential selection, who famously asked at the start of his first debate, “Who am I? Why am I here?” While I feel relatively comfortable answering the first question (I’m Michelle’s husband, of course), the second one makes me hesitate. I’m not a blogger; the thought of airing my spiritual laundry for all to see makes me a little uncomfortable. Strangely, I think I enjoy Michelle’s writing so much because she wears this daily discomfort on her sleeve. (Those who know me will attest that I don’t wear anything on my sleeves. My Minnesota stoicism even makes the mere fact of sleeves a little awkward). In any event, I can’t write an entire blog about how I don’t want to write a blog, so here goes. I’ll begin in a place of relative security: literature.

In Lee Smith’s short story, “Intensive Care,” a character named Harold Stikes casually pages through his wife’s copy of Reader’s Digest. When he comes across a quiz she filled out entitled, “How Good Is Your Marriage?” his curiosity increases. In the final question Harold reads, “When you think of the love between yourself and your spouse, do you think of (a) a great passion; (b) a warm, meaningful companionship; (c) an average love; (d) an unsatisfying habit?” Upon noticing that his wife had circled “an average love,” “suddenly, strangely, Harold was filled with rage.”

Of course he was. While I wouldn’t mind being labeled an average golfer, an average gardener, or even an average citizen, to be party to “an average love” would be devastating. But why? After all, in the big picture of passionate romances and bitter, broken relationships, there must exist an average love--a combination of boredom and interest, selfishness and selflessness, that makes it perfectly average. The problem is that we all envision love as something beyond the average, a force whose presence is inspiring and humanizing, whose absence is tragic and belittling.

The same is true of Christian love. The idea of “an average Christian love” is non-sensical. Christian love, at least as it is defined by Jesus, is inherently unique, transformational, even self-obliterating--anything but average. Unfortunately, while we have been given a mandate for perfection--“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31)--we seem to be hard-wired for failure. In fact, people often critique Christianity by pointing to the Crusades or the Inquisition or to the countless other historical failures of Christians to turn a philosophy of love into a plan of action. In other words, we know what we can be and what we were meant to be, but we insist upon being average.

And then there are the times, the rare, remarkable times, when we witness an act of pure, selfless, Mother Teresa-esque love. It humbles us with the reminder of what we are called to do; inspires us with an image of our potential; and demonstrates that Christian love, unfettered by the hope of reward, is anything but average.

Suz  – (October 26, 2009 at 11:15 AM)  

Well, "Michelle's husband," you did a bang-up job. You certainly have the blog-gene whether you recognize it or not. I loved your message and it is so true. With Christian love, average is no where good enough.

Thank you for sharing!

Anonymous –   – (October 26, 2009 at 8:01 PM)  

Good work Brad! A very compelling message about Cristian love. I particularly enjoyed the grapic image. Maybe Michelle will let you fill-in more often now that you've gotten your feet wet. We can all use a bit of Minnesotan spirituality, sleeves or no sleeves.

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