How to love the man who has everything.
The most painful discovery of life in my new digs at Chalet Happiness is the revelation of how many relationships are based on need rather than love. Not being secure in the love of the Father has made me a promiscuous lover of others, and not always in the ravenous affection and curiosity I have for other humans (that’s been there some too) but in the gluttonous desire to fill a place no man can fill. And when you recognize the ways your own “love” is dependent on whether or how the people around you are doing at filling a black hole of swarming need inside yourself that they could never hope to fulfill, you also become aware of how people are doing it to you.
In a great live version of “One” on the Zoo TV tour, Bono changed the lyric “have you come here to play Jesus/to the lepers in your head?” to “Have you come here to play Jesus…I did.” And indeed messiah complexes are not the unique property of crusading rock stars and certainly not preachers, but most all of us until we wake up to the love of God. We are looking for someone to play Jesus for the lepers in our head, and we are playing Jesus for somebody else.
I’m not being cynical here. My friend Jim Driscoll has helped me, telling me that what people see in me is God and God’s anointing in my preaching. So when God touches their lives through me, they want to be close to me–because they want to get close to God. But it’s God there after, and its only natural that they express that toward the man or woman they saw God through. There is nothing evil about this, and I don’t feel used.
Yet what about the relationships where we are loved insofar as we “need them?” They get validation because we come to them weak and broken and lost and hurt, because they get to play Jesus to the lepers in our head. In the most profound indictment found in all of Scripture, the prophet Jeremiah says (in 2.13)
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living water,
and dug out cisterns for themselves,
that can hold no water.
The broken glass cuts the artery just to read those words again. Did you hear that? Put aside your list of sins for a moment and understand that in essence, there are only two. In the same way that all the commandments can be summed up in whole-hearted love for God and neighbor, all sin can be summed up in this: forsaking the living water and digging cisterns for ourselves that hold no water. There is more revelation wrapped up in those words than I know how to express.
And yet this is not really an entry about sin. It is about how you have to learn how to navigate relationships where you used to ask people (unfairly) to fill your broken cistern, now that you are living from the source of living waters. How to love them without strings of need covering your chest like you’ve been eating messy cheesy pasta. How to let them love you without letting them fulfill you, since they never could anyway.
With these new discoveries comes a moment of anxiety–especially when you have lived as buttoned up in the world of politeness so often confused for Christ-likeness as I have been: will they still love me once they really get to know me? Do they love me, both when I was living from broken cisterns but now again that I live from the river of life? Do they love me, or did they only love the way I made them feel when I was in need? But even that moment of anxiety is brief, because the revelation of the Father’s love relativises them all!
This is not about not caring anymore about “them” and only caring “what God thinks,” because God in you makes you love them all the more. However they love you or they do not not love you, now you are liberated to love them completely because your need does not possess them like a violent lover.
I hope you will be patient with me as I learn how to love you better. And I will certainly be patient with you, as I explain how you can learn to love the man who has everything.