I originally wrote the following last night as a comment in a friend's Facebook thread. The topic, broadly speaking, was the age-old one of relationships between the sexes; more specifically, it began with my friend's perspective on the way many women today view men. The subject stirred up something that has been living in me for years about the nature of love. I could expand on it immensely, but the two paragraphs that follow say it well enough in brief.... Ladies and gents, allow an old duffer to provide a perspective from the pre-tech era. Let me be frank: hormones have always run hot. But there was a time when sex was something sacred, not a given; when "friendship with privs" would have been recognized as pure BS; when women were seen as something awesome by men, and men by women; when a guy's voice used to rise a minor third with nervousness about asking a girl out; and when care, respect, and honor, not me-first, what-I-want, and what-I-think-love-should-look-like, guided man/woman relationships. We've lost track of what love is. This nation has become tremendously self-centered. So men, if you say you're a good man, then know for sure what that means, and then be it toward women in a way that can't be easily moved by circumstance and shifting emotions. Women, know that it is no easier for a man to be a man than it is for you to be a woman. Have respect for yourself--and have respect and care for us men. And both men and women, if you wonder what love--real love, not Hollywood love, not hormonal love, not love that's all about emotions and how you feel--looks like, consult that outdated book for non-sophisticates called the Bible, specifically 1 Corinthians, chapter 13. The ancient wisdom there will frickin' blow your postmodern millennial minds and challenge you to a higher vision than anything our trendy, self-deifying culture has to offer.
What a beautiful day this has been! The trees, coated these past few days with ice and frosted with snow, today were transfigured by the light of a brilliant December day. Whole forests looked as though they were made of glass, radiant and, at times, depending on which angle you viewed them from, almost blinding. Then this evening the clouds moved in, and with them, the fat, downy tufts of snow that Christmas card landscapes are made of. On my way home from doing a little modest shopping in Hastings, I took a detour through a favorite area of mine out in the countryside just to see what the snow and ice had wrought. As I finally headed home westward on 100th Street, the trees thinned out and the landscape opened up into a vista of broad, hilly pastureland rolling away into the distance toward the wooded hills of the Middleville State Game Area along the Coldwater River. The failing light filtered through swirling snow that softened the view, blurring winter's sharp, black-and-white geometry with gentle grayness. It was perfect, as lovely as one could possibly hope for. I felt as if I were driving through a moving postcard. "Thank you, Father!" I said. "It is so beautiful." "Merry Christmas, Bob!" he replied. I wrote the following Christmas reflection earlier today for my mother, sister, and brother Pat. But having shared it with them, I would now like to share it with you as well: It is afternoon on Christmas Eve, and I am thinking of you and the gift that each of you is in my life. I love you, each of you, very much. Yet I know that my love often falls far short of what I wish it was in wisdom and self-giving. And there are ways in which each of you sets examples of love that humble me. I recently finished writing a chapter in my book that is all about love, and it kicked my butt. It is hard to write about a subject I'm so far from excelling at. Thank God, there is a higher love than mine or than any of ours. Because we all fall shorter than we wish we did. So it is reassuring to know that there is a star that rises higher than ours and shines more brightly. "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." Jesus spoke those words to a religious leader who came to him by night many centuries ago. I've read different thoughts on what was going on inside that man, Nicodemus. I think he was simply an honest person searching for something more than what he had and who recognized that something in Jesus. Today, we're so familiar with John 3:16 that we can quote it on a dime. But to Nicodemus, Jesus' statement wasn't a Scripture verse to memorize and quote. It was fresh, part of a personal conversation with an extraordinary man. God so loved this world. He still does. And that, really, is what Christmas is about: God's love, not ours. Because the best of our love is still pockmarked with the worst of our limitations. I need look no further than myself to know it's true. Even if I think otherwise, I need only read the news. Is there love in this world? Yes, thank God, there is. But this is not a very loving world. It is an angry, complex, and broken world whose fractures continue to multiply as our knowledge increases. This is the world God loves. The world Jesus came to bring life to. Because the world clearly does not have life in itself--not the kind we need. It took the "Word made flesh" to live the kind of life we could never live on our own and then offer it to us as an inheritance. There are many things that Jesus was and is. This Christmas, in this card, I wish you, my loved ones, the riches of his life and the guiding star of his love. A Merry and Blessed Christmas to you, Bob