Faith, Life

At What Point Does Someone Become Unworthy of Love?

This morning when I pulled into church I found some very unexpected visitors. Nine adorable little puppies were apparently left here overnight in a cardboard box lined on bottom with a black garbage bag. My heart was immediately broken and my first reaction was anger: who would do this? I made a couple phone calls to some true pet lovers and found the best place in town to take care of them and find them a home.

puppies

 

As I drove them over there, I was comforted by the fact that they were going to be adopted quickly. These were tiny puppies, probably not even fully weaned, and I knew that compared to all the older dogs in the adoption center there would be a lot of children ready to embrace these little pups. So my comfort was suddenly tinged with a nice blend of sadness and guilt when I thought of the older less cute dogs that would be left (thanks Sarah McLachlanWarning: In the Arms of the Angel).

I wondered, at what age do the dogs become unworthy of love?

The answer of course is never. Of course, they deserve love always .Of course that’s how we make our decisions on who to love and who to take care of.  Of course every one of God’s creatures, whether four legged or two, is equally valuable. And of course every one deserves a fair chance. Of course we give it to them and design our society to make that happen. Of course. Right?

I wonder now, at what age do people become unworthy of our love?

If you have ever seen a child sleeping, as I love to watch my boys, you cannot help but be overcome with a sense that this living, breathing being though small and in many ways weak, is nonetheless the most valuable and important thing in existence. And it doesn’t matter if that child is white or black or brown. It doesn’t matter if she sleeps in a designer bed or on a makeshift palette on the floor. Of course this child deserves to be loved and nurtured and given every opportunity possible. Of course.

So at what age does a person no longer deserve love? At what point does a person lose their right to a fair shot?

For every baby blissfully snoozing with that cute baby snore there’s

  • An 87 year old woman without any family left who sits in front of her nursing home waving at total strangers hoping they’ll stop for a chat
  • A 76 year old inmate wrongfully accused but on death row (or even if guilty, I wonder, who would Jesus kill?)
  • A 68 year old woman living on the streets because she was born with a mental handicap
  • Another prisoner, this one 57, who stole $50 from a store when he was 16 and has never been able to escape privately run prisons that profit from his incarceration (did you know that ⅔ of released prisoners will be arrested again within 3 years?)
  • 40-something middle class parents signing their bankruptcy papers because their son needed an emergency life-saving surgery to the tune of $150,000
  • A 32 year old single mom working 60 hours a week but still unable to live in a safe home for her children.
  • A 22 year old college graduate rewarded with a diploma and a $40,000 student loan who can’t find a job because she is either overqualified or needs 5 years experience.
  • A 14 year old teen with incredible computer programming skills, musical abilities, and also severe autism, who stays in his room all day, increasingly disillusioned at a world that has judged and rejected him at every turn.
  • A 6 year old boy who is zoned for an elementary school, middle school and high school that are grossly underfunded and are only unique for producing dropouts.

So in that list above, where do you draw the line? At what age do we stop deserving love? At what age do we lose our right to a fair chance?

Puppies need good homes. But there’s something even more beautiful and powerful when that ragged 14 year old lifetime stray finds a home that will love her for the rest of her life.

It is good to love and nurture innocent children. It is good to love people like you. But there is something much more beautiful and powerful when you cross the aisle or the railroad tracks, when you forgive someone seventy times seven times, or when you leave the 99 to bring back the 1 wayward soul, or when you love the very person you’re not supposed to.

As Christians our call to love doesn’t have an age limit. There is no three strike rule. It doesn’t make sense and frankly most of the time it sucks, but it is the only way.

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What if a Wine Critic Could Review Jesus’ Wine from the Wedding in Cana?

I don’t know where I got this idea, but it seemed too much fun to pass up. Here follows a review of the wine from Jesus’ first miracle by a fictitious wine reviewer (no I did not go to Hawaii for my honeymoon, and yes my father is alive and well.)


wine

Red Wine (unknown type), From Palestine, around 30 CE

A Review

You have heard the story. And now I have tasted the wine.

Jesus, at the wedding in Cana, got the bridegroom in trouble. You see you were supposed to serve the best wine first and when they ran out, and under his mother’s direction, Jesus took six jars of water and turned them into wine so good that the bridegroom was scolded for saving the best for last. Was it really that good?

In reviewing such an historic wine, I feel strongly compelled to show my hand a bit as a wine reviewer, to pull back the curtain. While we reviewers all have different tastes and preferences, what we value above all is that perfect mixture of complexity and cohesion of flavors. Another way I’ve described this ideal to friends is “decipherable complexity.” We want our wine to be complex, but no so complex that we cannot pinpoint the flavors.

By those standards, this wine is a bit of a disaster. In place of decipherable complexity I am overwhelmed, even in just the nose, by a bewildering complexity. Whatever palette I’ve developed after reviewing over 3,000 wines is feels somewhat useless here. I want to describe the flavors in easy ways for you to understand: black cherry, nutmeg, almond essence… what have you.

But when it comes to this miraculous wine. I am at a loss. At first taste the bewildering complexity is exhilarating, as though you’re on the climb of an ancient roller coaster that you’ve never ridden before and with each *clink-clank* you’re imagining the loops and turns ahead. But then as you cross the apex and dive into the taste, this wine frustrates because I simply cannot put my finger on what I am tasting. It assaults my palette unlike anything I’ve had before. It offends my developed sensibilities.

I feel like a classical art critic, accustomed to Raphael and Rembrandt, trying to review Picasso’s Guernica, or like a colorblind reviewer trying to describe the beauty of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. The vocabulary of this wine is simply written in a different language. And no matter how much I study its diction and sentence structure, it is always one step ahead of me.

art

Picasso’s Guernica, and Van Gogh’s Starry Night, to a person with color blindness.

So you will have to indulge me as I try to describe some of its flavors.

At one moment one of the notes smelled just like my grandmother’s closet. It was like a small hall that led from her bedroom to her bathroom. It was lined on either side with flowing floral dresses, less-than-elegant leather working shoes, and sheer scarves and shawls that would move with the slightest breeze and seemed to reach out for me as I passed. She kept the tiny window open in any season except the coldest part of winter and so the aroma of pollen and freshly cut hay would come and go.

At another moment the texture took me to the couch in the funeral parlor during the visitation for my father. I was supposed to stand and shake everyone’s hand and be cordial, but I just couldn’t. So I parked myself on their couch, an out-of-fashion but sturdy piece, and fiddled my anxiety away by rubbing my fingers back and forth on the arm. Rather than a mere print, it had actual clothe grooves, made to look something like intertwined ropes.

And finally, in the taste I was transported to a cup of coffee I enjoyed standing on the balcony of our bed and breakfast near Huelo Maui during our Honeymoon. It was probably just a normal cup of coffee. But it was my first cup of coffee as a husband and sipping it while smelling the salty breeze made it taste like something completely new. It was an adventure asking to be had, not in any way disguising its struggles and pitfalls. But as I stood there drinking that cup of coffee I knew that if I didn’t embark on this journey with my wife, neither of us would ever feel like we had really lived.

I hesitate even to attempt to articulate these flavors, not because I’m revealing too much about myself, but because much like quantum physics, the act of trying to document this wine’s exact location on a taste profile defeats the purpose. Even now as I write this, I’m thinking: “I remember those notes, but that’s not even close to describing the taste.”

If you are interested in a traditional wine, I could not discourage you enough from tasting this bottle. You will be forever ruined. But if you can think back to your first drink ever, perhaps at a romantic dinner, perhaps sneaking into your friend’s attic where she had hid some beanbag chairs and the last quarter of her dad’s bottle, and remember the exhilaration that came from tasting the unknown, then perhaps this wine would be for you.

Let us imagine that there is enough from this bottle for everyone. It demands a decision from you. Do you favor the known quantity that is sweet and satisfying and never gets old? Or do you heed the call to jump blissfully ignorant into a red sea of mystery, in which you will never know the full story, but you will know that you are known and that there is always more waiting for you ahead?

 

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