My brother once referred to pop as “trinkle” for almost an entire year of his life just because he thought it would be funny. That alone should tell you all you need to know about him, but I’ll continue. He once drank an entire container of boysenberry syrup at a Perkins at midnight for five dollars, which he then spent on one of those claw games in the entryway to gain possession of a stuffed duck, which he then almost immediately lost. On the way back to my grandparents from a Milwaukee Brewers game he claimed he was “so thirsty that he could drink an entire gallon of water,” if only I’d pull over at the next gas station so he could buy one. Which I did, thereby forcing him to not only purchase but drink an entire gallon of ice cold water, and just to be a punk he also drank a 32 ounce Gatorade. He then sat up all night long literally shivering uncontrollably, and relieving himself every fifteen minutes. This, people, is my brother.
Growing up, we were the only constant things about each other’s lives. Back and forth between two houses and two sets of parents, we were the only person the other spent all their time with. Experiences like that have a way of bringing two people together. In marriage, its two people facing the world together – that was sort of how we felt about life growing up. Him and me against the world, we had each other’s back – no matter what. The truth is, I know almost everything there is to know about him, both good and bad, and you know what? I still love my brother.
Between him and my wife, it’s about as close to unconditional love as I get. There’s really nothing I wouldn’t do for either of them – no reason I wouldn’t support them, nothing they could do to make me turn my back to them. In my world, this is what unconditional love feels like. I know it’s not a perfect example, but it’s what I’ve got, something that makes the whole concept more realistic, because honestly it’s something I struggle to comprehend.
From a young age I’ve been taught that God’s love for me is unconditional. To quote the song “the Bible tells me so.” “But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children.” While I know that’s true, I’m sometimes at a loss for what it means. To be loved without condition is unlike anything I’ve ever known in my human experience. And so, in an attempt to comprehend it, I water it down and compare it to something I know.
God’s infinite and unconditional love for me, for all of us, while incredible, has also been known to stress me out. Not because of His love, but because of the lack of mine. When someone gives you an amazing gift, you want to do all you can to show your thanks and appreciation. God’s gift of love is no different. And yet instead of gratitude, I often find myself repaying Him with questions, doubts, and by second-guessing.
“Wouldn’t things be better if we tried them my way Lord?” “How can you let me go through this if you love me so much?”
“I know you said I should do things this way, but everybody else is doing them this other way, and it’s working out great for them. Maybe I’ll try that way first.”
Sometimes I wonder, how much more could I accomplish if my love for God didn’t falter? If it wasn’t so dependent? What great things would I do for Him; if only I could love Him the way He loves me? But I can’t, and I don’t. And so I repay unconditional love with rags, and it stresses me out. It bothers me something fierce, and yet you know what God says? I still love you anyway. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you. There’s nothing I haven’t done for you. Incredible. It’s almost as if the inadequacy of my love serves its greatest purpose in showing the incredibleness of His. And if it does, I’m more than ok with that.
Truth is, I really love my brother. I have for a long time. But I want to love God more. It’s a journey, and a struggle – just like any other relationship it’s something I have to choose each day. Some days are better than others for me. But I’m trying, and I’d love some advice. How have you grown your love for God? What can be done to eliminate the “conditions” we so often place on it? When, if ever, do we love Him enough? Challenging but important questions, ones that need answers. And I truly believe that together, we might just find some. I look forward to the dialogue that ensues, but for now, I think I’m going to go call my brother…