Love > Great

 

I suppose it didn’t hurt to try.

I took the GRE this past weekend, and much like the results to all my previous practice tests, this one fared no differently.

By no means was it terrible, it just wouldn’t do me much good either.

And so, I find myself back at the same crossroads from where I had began – that is, asking what, then, will my next step will be.

While the question I pose to myself finds no answer, I have found something more than a mere silver living.

There were numerous occasions throughout this entire preparation for this test that felt rather hopeless, as if I were simply cramming in too much information in too short a time. (And as my test results would show, I may have in fact pulled out all the stops far too late.) I’d spend hour after hour re-working problems that look so familiar and yet I wouldn’t even know where to begin. It was, discouraging, to say the least.

But every time I’d come to my wife complaining about all the little mistakes I made, she’d tell me, without fail, that she loved me. And that was all. Maybe a kiss on the cheek, if she were awake enough to do so.

Initially, I found myself feeling slightly peeved, as if she were refusing to indulge my complaints, or dismissing them outright as though they were unimportant (which in fact, may be true). And still, I’m not sure what sort of response it was that I wanted, exactly, and even now I’m not entirely sure I know what I need, now that it’s all said and done.

And yet, perhaps, the “I love you” she offers is more than enough. Perhaps there’s something much more profound about that response that I’m only beginning to realize now.

I didn’t need to take this test. Well, I do, should I want to get into school. But I didn’t need to apply for school. I didn’t need to try shaking up my life again, as though it were not shaken enough, for the better.

Marriage, in itself, is the milestone of my life thus far – the purest, biggest blessing I can think of. And it is the one gift I keep that always returns itself ten, twenty-fold (To even put a number to it, does it a disservice).

Her “I love you”, in this particular context, is serving a different of purpose. That’s part of the profundity of it, of how many meanings it could give, captured in three words, said over and over again.

Here, in my life right now, in these moments of frustration, of discouragement – it means this:

It means it doesn’t matter that I am not great.

It has no bearing on being loved, and that’s the gift. The freedom to be far less than perfect, let alone good, because of love. Because it is the cosmic safety net to all of life’s disappointments. It catches us when we need it, even when we forget that it’s there.

For this, for her words to me, every night when I crawl into bed, fighting off feelings of defeat – now more than ever, I am finding my permission to fail.

Posture

This morning I read a post put up by Scott Bessenecker, the man that helped develop and launch the Global Urban Trek program that began ten years ago, which I participated in during the summer of 2006.

It was an honest account of its lasting impact on the lives of students that had participated in this trip. Some felt compelled to leave their lives in the U.S. and live incarnationally in the slum communities of the developing world and amidst the poor. Other had felt convicted to live simply, but struggle with holding on to the kind of theology that seemingly contradicts the material, individualistic pursuits approved and perhaps encouraged by the culture in which we live in, here. And still others have become disillusioned entirely, disappointed with this world, with God, even, and have left whatever faith they had, behind.

2006 would be the year that would seal the kind of life I’d willingly choose to live. I didn’t come back from Manila feeling particularly called to a ministry, or enlightened by a vocational path I would immediately pursue. The “kind of life” I came back with was really a posture, more than anything else.

It would take years before I remember actually adopting this word to describe what it was, exactly, that I needed to embark on, from here on in.

“Posture”.

Some time in Boston or in New York City, I can’t even remember, I had this hours-long conversation with a good friend, Chuck. We talked about too many things. Love. Music. Faith. He kept repeating to me this idea about what it meant to have a particular posture toward the world. It clicked.

Literally, I still have bad posture. My shoulders hunch over terribly, as if burdened and bent by some invisible boulder sitting on my back and neck. My father even once offered to buy me a back brace for my birthday – in middle school.

But while it might take a longer time to fix my physical posture, my soul has struggled and yet has stayed the course. My internal posture remains targeted toward a life that demands I give my all for the good of others.

It isn’t out of pity. I’ve since learned that the faceless mass we’ve easily identified as “the poor” are more than capable of helping themselves, and even, helping the rest of us.

It isn’t that. It doesn’t sit comfortably with me, the idea that I can provide a limitless supply of charity, giving hand-outs to the “have-nots”. What I have is hardly limitless at all. In fact, I’m more aware of my limits now, than ever before.

The “posture” is simply the desire to care, always. And that desire, my hope, stems from a place rooted deeply within myself that compels me, no matter how irrational or reckless, to love others.

This, is merely the kind of life I hope to live.

When I manage tear down all my drawn up images of how “successful” my future humanitarian plans will be, or quit imagining myself as this incredibly¬† innovative social entrepreneur some day, stripped down to my bear essentials, naked I hope, lies my soul, still in the same posture as it had taken back in 2006.

Still wanting to do good, but more so, to love, without abandon. Because this is the only way I’ve been taught to care.