A few weeks back, a good friend drove me to the hospital here in Belgium. The hospital being a place many have spent time in recent months, where no one wants to be–except for those longing to visit loved ones, who are prohibited.
My body was sick, and ‘it’ didn’t seem to be going away (fever/flu symptoms included). I wasn’t worried; my choice was rest, paracetamol, and a cold towel, all the while praying for the fever to be reduced. Not much that can be done for a fever was my thought. The chills came and went. I would be freezing while standing under the pressure of a boiling hot shower in our apartment, then drenching my clothes in sweat as I slept, though the nights are cool and the windows wide open.
Kilby, my wife, was worried (and such a compassionate caretaker for me through it all). She looked after my every need, encouraged me and prayed for me, and served me with Christ-like affection and humility. Our good friends here, along with my mentor, encouraged us to get checked up. I had interacted with many of them in days prior, and they wanted to know if I was dealing with the dreaded virus. We are grateful for so many here who have cared for us so well, truly as the Body of Christ, truly as brothers and sisters. We complied. My dear friend Albert gave of his time, his fuel, and his language skills to help me out at the hospital check-in.
We were all thankful the results for COVID-19 came back negative. I was curious what my chances of catching it post-testing might be, waiting in the section allocated for those presently impacted by the virus. What an experience it was watching and listening in that space for several hours. It turned out I had another (dreadful) virus, one that primarily effects young children, but can show itself more severe in adults (fifths disease, for you curious friends).
Questions were asked to doctors here and doctors at home. It was best that I didn’t draw my greatest concerns and treatment plan from any site I found in a few moments on the internet, as the information varied drastically. The primary needs according to the doc was this: give your body rest to fight the sickness best, remain hydrated, and don’t infect anyone else. This wasn’t something so serious, but it also wasn’t a fun game (though it led to playing backgammon for several days with my bride–in which her skill level passed mine and the game became less fun).
None of this was the reason for this post, though. If you’ve made it this far, you’ve gotten through the stage setup. Here’s the plight, the plot, the drama (though included above also to keep you reading). I love my bride. I want to love her with the love of Jesus, with sincere affection and sacrificial love. I care for her spiritually, mentally/psychologically, physically; I care for her long-term and daily needs. When I speak to her that she is my treasure, that I love her with the love of Christ, it’s not symbolism only. Kilby is gold to me.
On a typical day I show love to Kilby in many ways. She is better at expressing her love, but my efforts are true as the underlying love is true. I’ll take care of the laundry, I put the seat down after going to the bathroom, I’ll surprise her with something from the store she’s been wanting, I’ll write a short note for her to wake up to (though I should do this more often), I’ll finish up the dishes or ask questions to find out how she is truly doing and how I can best pray for her. I will thank her for all she is and all she does. I’ll listen as she speaks (I’m growing at this). I’ll read to her. And, I kiss her. There are certainly other means, but these are a few simple things, and the kiss is not the least of these. It’s a vibrant expression of love. It’s a daily reminder of our wedding day. The kiss can be gentle or compassionate or both, but it matters to us (and scientifically, this is significant).
The reality is, my expression of love towards Kilby in the matter of a kiss looks different at a time when I have a contagious virus. My love for Kilby (a true love for her, as my treasure) will at this point in time actually keep me from kissing her. Going 2-3 weeks without kissing your bride in your first year of marriage is not preferable. We can all probably relate with other thoughts on challenges in first months or years. I share all this to make a point. It’s challenging at different times to navigate how to love.
There can be a short-term display of love, or a deeper love that reveals a truer desire for her best, ongoing. I want to love her best daily, and always. I don’t want her to experience the weird body rash or vomiting, the strange joint pain that made me wake up feeling like a 75 year old who had been in a car crash. I thought I managed to dislocate both shoulders in a violent dream that must have been strange–and then it stuck around for 3 weeks. It would be unloving for me to pass this along to my bride if she truly is my treasure. I want to be wise and cautious.
I want to encourage you, my Christian brothers and sisters.
You may find my example simple or cheesy, but I hope that it will mean something to you and that you will remember it. I want to remind you, in a fallen world that is hard to navigate: we have the Source of Life. We have the Word of Truth. We have the embodiment of God as we look to Christ. We have the Holy Spirit. Be driven, led, and compelled by this first and most and always. This is a love that is able now, today, and enduring like no other.
We live in a world where it is difficult to speak; our words are received as divisive regardless of what we say on any given issue. It is difficult to know how to act, how to respond, how to move or be still, and when to be silent. I urge you now as always to search the Scriptures. The Word is our lens, this Truth our Guide. We see in Christ Jesus a unique humility that is not only uncommon in this world, but truly impossible apart from Him. Our sin-nature, every human infected, every image-bearer of God Almighty impacted, has no corrective outside of the Gospel.
The sin we face personally, corporately as the Church, and communally as a local and national society will only be dealt with at the core, in the soul, hearts pierced, as the Gospel of Jesus Christ–his shed blood–has it’s effect. We as Christians follow Christ. Our love should be evident to all, and clearly flowing from a single source: the Gospel we have received which is powerful to save a wretch like me. The Lord will renew our minds. Seek Him today, and never stop. Pray. Live in the humility of Christ. Love sacrificially and never cease to speak the Truth, ultimate Truth, True-Truth. Jesus is Lord.
Please don’t extract what is not here. Don’t read into this something I am not saying. Please know my heart, my passion, my character–though all imperfect, I strive to walk in step with the Spirit and grow in holiness. Please know my genuine love for all human beings, the workmanship of God. I am not saying not to move, brothers and sisters, or telling you how (specifically) to go about the days ahead. I am only urging you to seek the ‘expulsive power of a greater affection’ and to show Christ’s enduring love as He supplies the strength and the knowledge, the endurance and patience and joy.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil and cling to what is good. Goodness is defined by God the Maker, Jesus the Author. Deep and lasting love is what we are seeking, and it flows purely from the Source; it can never be found out apart from the Source.
Do we have a sincere love for each brother and sister, and every neighbor, and every stranger? Not a perfect love, but a true love flowing out of Christ-love? If not, what needs uprooting? If that love is present and evident, how do we best express it in a time such as this? The time is short; the days are evil, but the light of Christ will shine brightly and draw some to give glory to the Father. This is our desire. May we be found faithful. May we represent well.
Ask: what is our standard? What are we first-most submitted and submitting to? Who is our Source? Pray that God would grow us in humble and bold obedience. Pray for the wisdom to express all that is of the Father, fully on display in the Son, in this day and this time. That only happens by the Spirit, by the washing with the Word.
In Christ, Greg
I highly encourage you to pick up a cheap, used copy of Knowing God, by J. I. Packer. Read the whole thing. It takes time. But, maybe begin with the chapter on ‘God as Love.’ This book helped me a great deal. Not all that is referred to as ‘love’ is truly loving. God is love, genuine love, but what the world calls love is not inherently defining of God; often times it goes directly against His Word.
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd (wise) as snakes and as innocent as doves.”