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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Can you "decide" to love?

I woke up one day thirty years ago intent on finding a girlfriend. What I found instead was something much more interesting...You see, some of the girls just struck me the wrong way. I couldn't explain it, I couldn't think about it, "it" (whatever that is for a 15 year old boy) just wasn't there for some of the girls I talked to that day. But for some "it" was there, and "it" wasn't the girls I thought I would like. No matter how atractive I found them, how sparkiling their personality, I just couldn't bring myself to ask them out...and that night I got to thinking: can I "decide" to love someone?
Now I want to answer that question with a big YES! I want to say that I can decide to love someone, I want to say that I can apply rational principles, common sense, enlightened self-interest, history and tradition, and everything else that goes into a decision in order to love someone. The world works better if I answer yes to that question. If I answer yes than I can think about controlling love, maniplating love, following the rules of love, and even playing the game of love...because love is something "I" can decide for. I decide who to give flowers to, who to invite for dinner, who to listen to Van Morrison with and share a nice bottle of Pinot Noir. The power of our world rests on the illusion that we can answer "Yes" to the question of deciding who to love....
Unfortunately, experience led me in a different direction. In short, I have to answer "No" to the question of deciding who to love. This is not good. This means love is out of my control. This means I have little say in who receives my emotions, my money, and my love. This means all the stuff that we think we have "to do" for love is really just emotional kickback to a powerful surge outside of us. I don't know why looking at my newborn daughters I felt differently than looking at other babies. I don't know why my heart aches when my wife walks into a room. (Sinatra called it some enchanted evening, but he was drinking...) I don't know why, and I don't really have a lot of control over it (I can control my responses, but that's not what I'm talking about.) I don't know why I love the people I do, but I do, and the list is long, and growing longer every day. God has blessed me by putting people in my life that I love (and some I've even learned to love...like my brother!), and the choices I have about them are pretty slim.
For those wondering, this does include Jesus...but in my tradition we have saying that I "cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him. but instead the Holy Spirit has called me," and that probably means you can't decide to love Jesus either. The Holy Spirit will call you, and the love will come, but it's probably not your decision...sorry...because I know you want the responsibility...but we can't have it as that's not how God's love works. It's free, and it's not our decision.

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