Tuesday, June 1, 2010

New ways to love…

Maybe you’ve heard by now…The Isners have a new puppy! Her name is Fawkes (pronounced Fox- a Harry Potter reference, not the Gunpowder Plot), and she’s a certified mutt. The Humane Society suggested one mix of breeds; the vet debated another; i.e. no one knows! But who cares? She’s beautiful, and we’ve grown attached quickly!

Thus, our sadness when May 22, our vet said she’d contracted Parvo Virus, and had a 50/50 shot at living. So we took her to the hospital, and spent that afternoon/evening very anxious. But the next morning, while at church alone preparing for Sunday’s service, the vet called me. She said Fawkes made it through the night remarkably well, was on the road to recovery and we could take her home! Needless to say, the Isners were ecstatic, though just five days earlier, Fawkes wasn’t part of our family.

In fact, that’s been something surprising about my first week as a Pet Owner. We really love our puppy. It’s not a child, but... Personally, I’m not one for anthropomorphizing animals, but I’ve fallen for this dog, and so has my wife. And what’s more is how much I’ve enjoyed watching my wife’s response to this new source of love in our lives. I knew Tabitha loved dogs, and was really looking forward to adopting one. But her ‘puppy glow’ is stronger than I’d anticipated, and that stirs my heart as much as the new puppy (vice versa, she says). But we’re relative newlyweds, right?! We shouldn’t be susceptible to intensified feelings of love so soon! Does the human heart have a saturation point, when it can’t love any more?

No, it seems. And that’s part of the design. Genesis 1 claims humans were created in God’s image. From a Christian perspective, that means we were created to love- just like the Creator, Son and Spirit love into eternity and beyond. Indeed, that what’s so profound about the idea of the Trinity, that the essence of ‘who God is’ boils down to intimate relationship, or as 1 John puts it, “God is love.” And notice that relationship is larger than two. Apparently, in the divine sense, ‘love’ is strongest and best when a ‘third party’ enters the picture.

I’m learning something unique about that from my new dog. I presume parents can tell me more besides. Love between two people is wonderful and real. But when that love incorporates another- a child, dog, aging parent, some injustice you want to help rectify- something…more…happens. And presuming you don’t lose your individuality in that third party, your love for each other even grows.

Obviously, that’s but a rough sketch of something still new to me, but it reminds me of how church works when church works best. People have asked me, “Shane, what does a church need to do to be a strong, growing church?” Simple- Love. Which seems cliché and easy, but think of it as I just described. No church is attractive if the people don’t love each other, right? Especially an intimate community like ours. But how does a church deepen its intimacy and love for each another? Spend time together…Have fun together…all things we do well! But how about this? Love others. Indeed, every strong church I’ve ever seen- regardless of size, location, ideology- does one thing well: They’ve found others outside of themselves to actively love, and engage in ministry.

And that’s different for every church, right?! For some, it’s families with small children. Others engage older adults in retirement communities. Some minister to people wounded by the Church, or homeless veterans, or… The possibilities are endless! But the common factor is this Trinity Factor- Church works best when God, self and neighbor are loved. It’s never just about us.

I’ve said that before, of course. I’ll say it again! But my new dog is bringing it home to my home in a whole new way. And so I’m excited to see how our church, throughout 2010, will find new people to love and engage in ministry. As that continues to happen, I’m betting our intimacy as a community will only increase as well.

Grace and Peace,

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