A New Kind of Love

Love is a subject given to much speculation and debate. It is an elusive beast that will defy the efforts of the most ingenious poets and artists in the world to classify and explain.

And yet love is a simple thing, something that is better experienced than analyzed. The power of love goes beyond intellect and pierces into the depths of our very soul.
My understanding of love has received a recent overhaul with the birth of my first child.
As everyone says, it changes everything.

Even though she is just two weeks old, the moment she was born I knew something had changed forever. The emotions that awoke within my that morning failed to find a place inside my previously established classifications for love. It was something different entirely than I had ever known, and I have been trying to grasp at an explanation ever since.

Every other loving relationship in my life up to that time was forged in the furnace of time, made up of countless past moments and memories that added up to the current state that we called love. Aside from my immediate family, the only way I arrived at love in a relationship was through time and choice. Even with my wife, the person I love the most in the world, there was a time when I saw her that I didn’t know her and certainly didn’t love her as deeply as I do now. But when I saw my daughter and held her in my arms, it was instant love of a totally different kind. It was love at first sight in the absolutest sense of the phrase. Never before have I instantly felt such extreme devotion to someone, paired with an unparalleled willingness to sacrifice anything for their sake. This must be real love.

This kind of love does so much to help me understand the love of God, because his love for the world was (and is) unconditional. It has nothing to do with what we do for him, but he loves us deeply because we belong to him. I never really knew what that meant until fifteen days ago.

I hope that you will have the chance to experience the joy of loving someone more than anything else in a split second of time. It’s one of God’s greatest gifts.

All The Cliches Are True (Our Labor Story)

If there’s anything that invites commentary, advice from almost everyone you talk to, and all kinds of cheesy cliches, it’s having a baby. It’s one of those defining moments that will change your perspective forever.

Until recently, I could only say all this by speculation. But last Monday morning everything in my life changed and all the cliches suddenly made sense. Here’s the story.

I’m no stranger to waking up on a Sunday morning and being really tired, but this time was different. My wife and I had been up most of the night for the previous three nights with contractions, sitting right on the edge of heading to the hospital. But each night around 6am the contractions would slow down and we would head into our day thinking it was a false alarm.

I knew going into it that this particular Sunday was one of those especially tired mornings so I tried to manage my grogginess. I made it through two of the our three services before getting the call from my wife to come home. The time was getting very close for baby to arrive.

We headed to the hospital that afternoon around 2:30, both expecting to be sent home because there wasn’t a whole lot going on. When we got to the hospital we found out that we were 5cm, halfway to having a baby, much to the surprise of the nurses who saw my wife’s calm demeanor. So we stayed and buckled up for the event we had tried our best to prepare for.

Things were progressing fine hour by hour and by the evening it looked like baby was just around the corner. My wife was handling all of this like a champ, not a single medication administered up to 8cm. But suddenly and for no apparent reason things came to a screeching halt. We didn’t progress any more for eight more hours. Yeah, eight… long… hours. The exhaustion and fatigue was beginning to take a toll, and we had to talk about doing something to help our baby make the final steps of the journey.

Even though our original plan was to go natural, we opted to get the epidural and hope that things would go smooth the rest of the way. Prayers were prayed and after a little waiting we were ready for birth. Our little daughter was born at 8:49am on Monday morning.

Everyone’s experience is a little different, and all the commentary that you hear from other moms, buddies and relatives cannot prepare you for what it is like to go through the process of labor and delivery. It is such a confusing emotional cocktail of exhaustion, excitement, anxiety, anticipation, and overwhelming joy, just to name a few, all of them wrapped in phrases like “Your whole life will change in an instant,” “Life will never be the same,” You instantly would do anything for this little person,” and other bumper-sticker type phrases.

Well, I’m here to tell you that they are all true, every last one. It’s virtually impossible to describe what it’s like to see your child come into the world. The change in perspective that it produces is incredible. When I laid eyes on her for the first time, the entire world stood still, frozen in that moment of absolute miraculous beauty. It was pure awe, like standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon feeling overwhelmed with the reality of God.
In the days that have followed, I feel a little crazy because I float around on this cloud and can scarcely think of anything but her. I do silly things like hurry to get back home when I run errands so I can be with her, and at this point I wonder how I’m going to get back into “real life.”

But I guess that’s the point, “real life” is forever something different than it was before. It isn’t a loss or a disappointment, but it’s like seeing with new eyes all the colors of creation. I have already learned so much and I am incredibly grateful for the blessing that our daughter has been. And the crazy thing about it is that it’s only just begun.

It’s Not Just You

I love worship music. There are so many great songs that have been written, songs that are full of truths that exalt God’s name and make my heart soar. I love the old songs, but new songs are being written every day, all expressing in fresh ways how Great our God is. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all the new material!

When I listen to new worship records, I process the songs differently than I used to. There was a time when the “vibe” or “sound” of the song was all that really mattered to me. I was paying attention to how the music made me feel, imagining how much fun I would have playing the song or leading it with my congregation.

But experience and reflection (along with my studies at IWS)  have helped to broaden my perspective when I listen to songs. Instead of listening primarily for the emotional content of the song, I am listening to how well the songs tell the whole story of the Trinity, the Gospel and the Church.

Sadly, many songs miss the opportunity to include these important aspects of worship. Here are some examples: The trend these days is to focus on what Jesus/the cross/the Bible/God/light etc. are to me and how my soul responds to what God has done for me. The use of the personal pronoun is staggering! Many songs tend to focus on Jesus alone (heresy you say!) and neglect the aspect of the Father’s will to send and the impartation and role of the Spirit after Jesus’ ascension. Some songs would lead you to believe that John 3:16 is a typo and what it really meant to say was that “God so loved ME that he gave his only begotten Son…”

Now I’m not trying to be harsh, and I’m being a bit facetious. I am certainly NOT saying that any song that is short on any one of these qualities should be erased from CCLI’s database forever. I love the new songs and fresh sounds that so many songwriters are continuing to produce, and without them we’d be in a terrible spot!
But I wonder sometimes why we choose to limit ourselves in our worship of a limitless God? Think of it less as criticism and more as a challenge to take advantage of the opportunity we have as we worship and lead others. Perhaps an analogy would help.

If you’ve ever been to Washington D.C. you know that there are about a hundred and ten things to do downtown. Monuments, museums, and historic sites galore, enough to easily keep you occupied for weeks on end. Imagine visiting such a place every year but only going to the Library of Congress and the Lincoln Memorial. Every year, over and over, all you see are those two attractions. Let me tell you, you’d be missing out! There is more to see, and you would head home from your trip with a truer experience of D.C. if you saw it all (well, as much as you could).

And we are presented with an even greater opportunity when we approach God in worship! We only limit ourselves and miss out on knowing the richness of our God when we are selective worshippers. “Feelings first” might be the easy, comfortable approach, but it will leave you empty in the end. Chasing a feeling is an exhausting and distracting deterrent to authentic worship.

My advice (to myself as much as anyone else) is to try to our best to get a sense of God’s story, the whole story, and take it all in when you worship. He is an endless attraction that will leave you breathless if you step out and explore. He would be too small of a God if all he came to give us was personal fulfillment (Is. 46:9). He came for the life of the world! (John 3:16; Col. 1:20)