Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Love Is Not Efficient

At a conference last fall, I heard Paul Miller quoted from his book Loved Walked Among Us. It was a simple, short statement; "love is not efficient."  But it stayed with me, one of those thoughts you can't quite seem to get out of your head. 

Reading the rest of the book about learning to love like Jesus, it is so evident that Christ was not primarily concerned about his schedule, time, or comfort as he reached out and touched a dying world. He also was ridiculously patient with his disciples, who, like us, were often self-involved and needed things explained again and again. 

It's so easy to want to move people or a system through a program quickly and easily, to "love" people for six minutes, days, or months and then be done if they haven't changed. As I have worked with college students for the last years, this has been especially tempting for me. I want the students to be completely mature at the end of college, having learned everything perfectly by graduation. And then I think of myself at 21 and a recent grad, and see now how little I knew about life then. It's much clearer now how much I have changed in those ten years, and how patient people have been with me. There was nothing quite like moving across the country by myself to teach me how little I actually knew about the world. 

Although this may seem like a very basic lesson, I've been reminded again and again that loving people well does not make my life easier. It actually messes up my plans quite extensively much of the time. And the more I try to be efficient in loving others, the more I hurt them. Some days I respond much better to this than others. A few weeks ago, a few friends and I canceled a camping trip to be with our kindreds that were going through a difficult time. This time wasn't as hard as some times to give up what I wanted to do, but other days, the absolutely last thing I want to do is serve others above myself. And there are many times when I am selfish and choose myself over others. 

This doesn't mean that it isn't worth it, and that sometimes it is wise to say no. But it does mean that if you want a calm, predictable, uninterrupted life, do not get involved deeply with people. Keep your distance and perhaps write a check every now and then to a good cause to keep the guilty thoughts from invading your mind. But don't seek to actually care about people, and by all means, do not become the person they call in a crisis. Nothing ruins a nice dinner like an emergency room run. 

Dose of sarcasm aside, it has been evident that following Jesus down the path of loving people is worth it. Although there are times that are absolutely heart-breaking, and even when I see all of my control issues surfacing when someone doesn't do what I think they should, there is more joy than I thought possible investing in people. And this joy is much more evident when I am remembering that it is God who works through me to love, that it isn't my strength or will that I can lay down my life, and that God has been infinitely patient with me to try and teach me the same lesson again and again. 

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