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.
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.