Last night, my wife and I went to the Dollar Tree. Yes, I know, the store is full of trinkets that are predominately made in China, and I also know that all of them will end up in a landfill eventually, I know. This isn’t about environmental impact or the true cost of consumerism. If you must know, we were buying paper plates for the Valentine’s Day Party that we will, God-willing, be having this evening.
will end up in a landfill eventually, I know. This isn’t about environmental impact or the true cost of consumerism. If you must know, we were buying paper plates for the Valentine’s Day Party that we will, God-willing, be having this evening.
Anyway, on the eve of the holiday that celebrates love, the night was ripe with frustration, stress, and anger. Red and pink were plastered all over every display as we entered the store. The three opened registers were clogged with people who had armfuls or basket fulls of Red-40 colored confections. A lady who was walking out of the store yelled at a minuscule little toddler. She was wearing tiny suspenders and she had a fro easily twice the size of her actual head. She was holding a box of Mike and Ikes like they were the last ones in the whole world. When the little girl didn’t move, the mom open hand slapped her on the back of the head. The mom defiantly glared at us after she caught us staring.
“If any all ya’ll wanna’ say somethin’ about me disciplinin’ my kid,” she bobbed her head defiantly, “just say it!”
We didn’t say it. We kept walking. Plates, we just needed plates.
We almost tripped over a few kids when they ran down the aisle in front of us. They were on a mission to find their mom. I heard them come thumping to a stop on the next aisle over. They pleaded in frantic Spanish for their mom to purchase everything that they had found.
We just needed plates.
A skinny man in a white t-shirt walked across the store and headed towards the greeting cards section. He held up his sagging pants with one hand, and in his other, he had a fist full of red and pink colored heart balloons. The balloons bobbed up and down with each step that he took. I smiled.
After a few more chaotic moments, my fun meter was pegged. I was ready to go. We found the plates and decided to forgo a stroll around the store. We headed for the lines, instead.
Right before we reached the line, we were cut off by the man with the balloons.
Stef and I looked at each other for a moment and then shrugged our shoulders. At least it wasn’t boring.
Just to pass the time, I turned my head to guffaw at the impulse items. Mercifully, the Dollar Tree doesn’t have magazines at the registers, so I didn’t have to stare at my feet the whole time or become instantly concerned with the lighting and ventilation systems of the store.
“Do you think that anyone actually buys those?” I asked, I pointed to an incredibly sketchy looking four pack of energy pills. The package had an American flag printed on it, and large canted print told me that the company was comprised of “DIET & ENERGY SPECALISTS.”
She laughed, “I don’t know,” she thought for a moment, “but look!” she pointed at them, “They’re almost gone!”
I too noticed that the peg hook was only supporting one packet of pills. Oh great. I don’t know why, but for some reason that made my stomach turn.
When the man in front of us finally got up to the casher, she looked at him for a moment and then sleepily asked him if he wanted a balloon weight to hold all of the balloons down. He said yes and handed her the twenty or so pink ribbons.
The security guard lumbered over towards the register and then said cordially, “You lookin’ to get married buying all that?” he laughed.
The skinny man turned to him and laughed too. He held up his hand in protest, “Naw, she’s not the one, you know,” he nodded his head as he talked.
“Oh,” the security said, still smiling, “I feel you. You jus’ playin’ games!” he patted the guy on the back and laughed a large gravely laugh, “I got you.”
My wife turned to me and gave me her classic, “Are you hearing this,” look. I nodded gravely.
Watching that guy walk happily out of the store while a whole flock of balloons that bounced behind him, did something to me. That whole scene made me ponder Valentine’s Day, and by extension, it made me ponder love.
What is love?
Sex? Is sex love?
No, that can’t be it. If it were, then people in the pornography industry would live lives overflowing with love, or maybe a leader of a band or popular athlete: they would be the champions of love. But, they don’t live lives replete with love.
I recently asked my best friend why he was getting married. No, I’m not trying to stop a wedding, I was just challenging him to think about a thought that he might wrestle with a little while after getting married. I told him that love can’t be based on feelings alone.
“Wait,” he interjected, “but like love is a feeling too, right? Like I mean, I really love her and I feel that love every time I see her.”
“Totally,” I said, being less than helpful, “those are good things to feel, but,” I continued in my serious voice, “you can’t base your marriage on those things. What happens when she starts to get old, or what if you both had a big fight before you went to work, and, God forbid, someone comes to your work or gets hired there who is slightly younger than your wife or slightly more attractive? What happens when you find out that you both like the same music or movies or whatever, the kind that your wife doesn’t? You’ll train wreck your life by going after that girl instead of staying true to God and the woman he has given you. That’s why you can’t base it on feelings.”
Dear reader, you might be horrified by that last paragraph, but Satan doesn’t have to be creative to destroy marriages. He’s used that scenario a countless amount of times before and I’ll wager that we’ll see it used again a few more times before we are all dead and gone. Okay, maybe that wasn’t the best thing to tell someone who is looking forward to being married… then again, maybe it’s the best thing to tell them. They’ll hit a wall sometime in their marriage, and either they are rooted and grounded in love and truth or they’re rooted and grounded in feelings.
But what is love?
You heard me. Love is dirty feet.
When Jesus was crawling through the streets of Jerusalem, as the crowds cursed and spit on him, as the blood caked with sand on his knees and hands: his feet were dirty.
“Yeah, yeah, we’ve all heard this story, we know that he got beaten and then died for our sins, and God is love and Jesus is love too.”
It’s not just a story. It’s the story. Think of it. The disciples left the Lord in the garden. They fled from the one who cared for them, fed them, put up with them patiently, challenged them, and instructed them, and yet when they abandoned him to go through the loneliest death in history, they ran from him with clean feet. At the last supper, Jesus had tenderly and lovingly washed their feet and yet there they were abandoning him to die with his own dirty feet.
Can you imagine the CEO of Feed the Children dying of hunger? Yet the death of Christ was so much more inappropriate, so much more absurd, so much more unjust.
That’s love. Love isn’t standing up and saying, “Really? I’ve been with you night and day for three years providing for you, showing you miracles, teaching you, and I just washed your disgusting feet, and no one will stand with me?”
You want true love? Then why are you putting all of the weight of that desire on a fallen human? Are you lonely today? Then look to Christ and not a person to fulfill you. Yes, we all go through times when we feel far from God, when we miss lost loved ones, when we grieve the loss of love that we feel should have been ours, and I’m not negating any of those feelings. I simply want to challenge you today to reflect upon God’s love. Perhaps He will use this challenge to enable you to draw near to him.
“But you’re married, you have no idea what it’s like being alone. You’re never alone.”
Neither are you.
You see, as a Christian, complaining that you are alone or unloved on Valentine’s Day is like sitting at a giant table that is loaded down with the world’s most ridiculous feast, and once you are seated, you frown and say, “But I wanted Chuck E Cheese.”
Really? You want the love of a person over the love of the Father?
Yes, I love my wife. But I’m not fulfilled by her. I don’t fall on my face and weep over her beauty, or lose myself in song praising her forgiveness. With God, I do. I can’t help but to fall on my knees when I look at the stars on a clear night and marvel that he would ever think of me. I can’t help but to cry tears of joy when I meditate upon the cross. Christ’s love is a far more perfect love than I could ever show my wife or the love that she could ever show towards me.
Oh, my dear reader, we know nothing of love. All of our love experiences are so small, so flavorless, so stale when we compare them to the great love that God has for us. My dear reader, what riches are to be found in the face of Christ.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to cling to, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled Himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross. Therefore God exalted him to the highest place, and gave him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11
I urge you to meditate upon the love of Christ today. See his dirty feet and stand amazed.
Until next time, let’s lose our lives!