love in the time of COVID

A few days ago, Joanne asked if I could take a break to run over to Target with her. She needed help loading a large Christmas gift. 

         I was busy, but considering her clear and specific parameters for the job, I said, “Sure, I need a break. Let’s go.” I knew the trip would take 30 minutes max. 

         But as we entered the store, she said, “Oh, and I need to pick up a toy for Caleb and a few groceries.” That’s when my gears locked up. 

         She knew; “What’s wrong?”

         “Well, I accepted a very specific mission, but you just expanded it.” 

         “Oh, honey, I’m sorry.” 

         Then, in all my glorious Ed-ness, I found a somewhat graceful reason to leave, you know, to do more important things. But as I drove away, I’m pretty sure I heard my loving Lord speak, “O, you beautiful man, what the hell’s wrong with you?”

         After He and I conversed a while longer, it all started coming back to me, how Joanne brings her own gifts, skills, and ways to our marriage. Her dazzling riddles, allurements, and sparks of humor often pull me out of my personal bunker. The journey into Joanne sometimes drives me nuts… just before it enriches me. 

         And it does so because we’re not alike

         We came to our marriage from distant places, formed by wildly divergent stories, wired with contrasting brains, furnished with delightfully different bodies, and waltzing through our distinct yet mutual destinies. My thinking works like a bullet; hard, straight, and fast. She muses like a garden of butterflies; fluttering, hovering, and vanishing, sometimes to return to the thought, sometimes not. 

         I so need her butterflies.

         Think of all the gorgeous sounds, sunrises, colors, nuances, graces, and grottos you’ve discovered through your mate. Or once did. Have you lost vision for the marriage? If so, is it possible that the man or woman you first loved twenty, thirty, forty years ago could still be buried deep inside? Could their bundles of secrets and possibilities still be glistening below the surface? 

         Like so much of life, it comes down to what we see. How did we ever lose sight of God’s extravagant gift inside him or her? Did it slip from your vision when sex began to fade? If so, might that be childish and selfish? Do you think He may be waiting for you to dig deeper, down to your mate’s hidden caverns of beauty? 

         What about our community? And nation? Could the same issue apply?

        Maybe you and I need the stark differences our polar opposites bring. Lately, I’ve found myself wondering how, when, and why I ever decided I didn’t need those unlike me. When Joanne asked me to run over to Target, God was setting me up for a test. A test of love, which I failed. Does the pandemic also set all of us up for a test of love?

         My friend, Washington Post columnist Bill Raspberry, once told me, “Most thoughtful people believe both sides of issues.” Well, of course they do. Life is beautifully variegated and intricate—we embrace liberty and order, free and responsible speech, generosity and restraint, strong national borders and kindness to immigrants (especially the undocumented ones). 

         But polarizing forces demand that we pick a side, and then learn to hate everyone on the other side. That too is outrageously childish and selfish. As a conservative and as a Christian, I need my liberal and non-Christian friends, including all they know, feel, and carry.

         For most of the past decade, I’ve worked with left-of-center people. And I discovered my genuine need for their idealism, collaborative energy, sense of community, bold spirituality, and their willingness to do the hard work of building social capital for those on the margins. 

         I need each of them to take me beyond myself. 

         COVID-19 and every other issue (including trips to Target with Joanne) reveal what and who we love, serve, believe, hope, despise, cherish, and fear. Yes, the pandemic raises profound fears of economic damage, loss of freedom, constitutional issues, and death. Those are all valid!

         But love—of spouse, family, friends, community, and world—towers above all the other issues. Do I love them more than I love myself? Can I set my fears aside as I decide to place my life on the line for others? 

         Maybe that’s what Jesus meant when He told His disciples, “Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13, NLT)

         Health care workers, law enforcement officers, military personnel, and teachers show us how to do that every day. Your spouse probably does too. 

27 thoughts on “love in the time of COVID”

  1. Hi Ed, as always I am entertained and enlightened by your thoughts and writings. I had pretty much the same thought that perhaps God did early in your story when you left your wife at Target.
    However, your insight following was encouraging and I may have to copy and paste a couple of your statements in an upcoming message of mine…with your permission of course. Hope you and your family have a Blessed Christmas! Gary B…

    1. Thank you, Gary. Yes, of course, you may use any statement of mine anyway you want. Blessings on you and Rose and your daughters and grandkids. Merry Christmas to you and everyone you cherish.

  2. Ed,
    This short essay is precisely what is going on in my tiny little mind. Living in Alaska for seven years gave me a very different perspective on people, politics, and pride. Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, has 93 other languages in its school system. Alaska’s racial diversity is just as majestic as the peak of Bird Ridge Summit that looms over the Turnagin Arm. There are many different facets, perspectives, and stories of people that I saw while living there.

    This past year my family moved to Oklahoma, where my wife and I were raised. My youngest daughter is 13, and she has embraced racial justice, caring for the environment, and more liberal ideas. She is also a great evangelist for Christ. We have had many discussions about conservative issues and more liberal issues. Twenty years ago, I was a card-carrying Republican with a very defined view of the world. Now, I am more moderate not only in my political opinions but in my personality. My daughter has helped me realize that God’s grace is more significant than our human polarities and ideologies. I’m still conservative in my view of life and gender, and yet I see the issues of racism and demagoguery much more clearly. I really appreciate the juxtaposition between marriage and society. I always love to read what you write.

    Much Love To You and JoAnne,

    Joel

    1. Thank you so much, Joel. What a beautiful view from your perch on the mountain. We all get stretched by…living. New experiences and relationships carry us far beyond all we once knew and saw and felt. Even you and I found grace and space for each other! 🙂 I love the perspective on your relationship with your daughter. Wondrous.

  3. Thank you for being willing to listen when He speaks. And thank you for being willing (and taking the time) to share what you’ve heard.

    You know I am an early American West student. We love the mental images of Jim Bridger pioneering his way through mountain passes. But we sometimes forget he would ride back to the wagon train to reveal what he was seeing ahead. He pressed on and through, but would have been worthless as a guide had he not been willing and able to communicate it to those who needed to navigate.

    I love how you press on and through, checking the wind, evaluating the terrain, measuring the the risks and listening to that still small voice. But all of that would have far less meaning if you kept it to yourself. Thank you the most for sharing the discoveries. As your little brother, I have enjoyed that for my entire life.

    Thank you again in this message. It’s right on as we navigate through this strange era.

    1. Thanks, Carl. I sure love the imagery of Jim Bridger pressing forward and taking the time to relay his information to those following. And I do try to do that. Blessings on you, my dearly loved friend and brother.

  4. Oh, Ed, you really hit the nail on the head with this! I just loved it. You got us to laughing so you could hit us in the mouth without splitting our lips. Using marital reality in a humorous way to smoothly pivot the train of thought over to how we fall short in the midst of national and social disarray. Brilliant!

    I really loved three sentences:
    “Yes, the pandemic raises profound fears of economic damage, loss of freedom, constitutional issues, and death. Those are all valid!
    “But love—of spouse, family, friends, community, and world—towers above all the other issues.”

    Wow! Thank you!
    Bravo!

    1. Thanks, Glen. So much of what I see and say came to me through what you have taught for decades. I’m forever grateful for that and for you.

  5. Ed,
    Right between the eyes. I am devastated at my lapses into impatient with Susan – the woman who has loved me lavishly and unselfishly for almost 54 years. So your little episode at Target and your conversation with Lord afterwards sure hit home. What a moment of grace realizing that I’m have been the recipient of lavish grace twice over from my wife and my Lord. It just stops me in my tracks.
    I loved your Bill Raspberry quote about thoughtful people seeing both sides of issues. Despite what we observe in the political (and sometimes religous) worlds, life is not binary. As I’ve aged, I’ve begun to see more of the beauty in nuance. I’m probably still fairly conservative on most issues, but I know over the last twenty years I have moved left of center. If that sounds contradictory, it may be because I think the terms conservative and liberal have lost a lot of their meaning – at least as blanket statements. Again, thankfully, we have been created with the ability to understand and appreciate nuance, ambiguity, and uncertainty.
    Thanks for your friendship and a wonderful Christmas to you and JoAnne,

    John

    1. Wow, John. Every line rings like a hammer hitting a steel rail. Excellent. You and I seem to have moved into our later years along the same path. You’re so right; the old descriptions don’t work anymore.

      And may you and Susan have a wonderful Christmas too. See you in a few weeks.

  6. Ed,
    I thoroughly identified myself in your Target story. My wife of 40 years delights in spending hours making cards you could buy at Hallmark for $5. It’s unimaginable to me that she could get any delight from that. She watches romantic TV shows that would have me crossing my eyes. Our entertainment tastes are so different, but she colors my B&W world.
    Viva la difference

    1. Really good, Pat. Yes, we’ve both needed and founded women who could bring color to our monochrome world. I’ve even watched THREE Hallmark movies lately. 🙂 Thanks, Paat.

  7. Ed,
    I love what you have shared on so many levels. I have a friend who says that life would really boring if we were all alike. And I agree. I have family & friends who are more conservative than I am and family & friends who are more liberal than I am. But it doesn’t matter. My life is so enriched by all of them and I am grateful for having them in my life.

    Love to you & Joanne.
    Ryse

    1. I agree. Some of those labels have become so cheap and unhelpful. But the creativity and kindness of God refreshes and expands our lives so beautifully…through ALL His kids! Just as you have done for Chinns!

  8. “But love—of spouse, family, friends, community, and world—towers above all the other issues. Do I love them more than I love myself? Can I set my fears aside as I decide to place my life on the line for others? “

    These words in your article as well as all of the others are like drops of honey nourishing our weary lives. As the unfolding of life can become abrasive and rub us raw there is a path for us to reflect God’s love as you have encouraged us to find. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Chris. I really appreciate your view. And thank you for being such a solid source of encouragement for so many years.

    1. What a beautiful memory. I certainly remember your wedding but didn’t recall the date. Thank you for letting me know. Happy Anniversary to you and Rikki. Hope to see you guys again one of these days.

  9. Dad,

    This message is a steam engine painted with integrity, honesty, and stunning vision.

    As I finished reading it, I thought of Grandpa patting the front of his overalls while saying, “Mary, where’s my glasses?”

    This message challenged me to upgrade my prescription and keep that pair in a place where I will never lose them.

    Thank you.

    1. Yes, keeping our optical prescriptions renewed is the challenge. We both married women who are treasures. Need to keep them in clear focus. Thanks, son.

  10. Wow, Ed. Where do I start. I feel like Bob Cratchett when he says to his wife after tasting the pudding “Another triumph.”

    Your insights into marriage are so close to what I have been experiencing in my walk with Judy. Does it really take 50 years to get here? I think we all have the Ed-ness or Stuart-ness that is probably “self” – it knows what is best with complete certitude and is eager to demonstrate its superiority to others who don’t quite get it. I used to get so upset with Judy because I thought she was getting caught up in the commercialization of Christmas by running here and there, buying just the right gift for each person and staying up late wrapping them. The truth is I just wanted her to spend less money on others and more time with me. Now I just watch this beautiful person who recklessly abandons herself (or her “self”) each December to love everyone in her world. Its a pleasure to just watch her be who she is. A friend once said “We are not made happy by what we have, but by what we value.” It is a sweet truth, that I wish I had learned sooner.

    With regard to working with left-of-center people, I am not there yet, but would like to be. I totally agree about the polarizing. It feels to me like the pressure to pick a side has never been greater in my lifetime, but I doubt the pressures are much different from the pressures to take sides that existed in New Testament times. Perhaps on a much higher plain there is an even greater, albeit a gentler pressure to pick sides; but not between liberal and conservative, but between two kingdoms. In choosing the lower kingdom we must choose who we will love and who we will hate, but in choosing the Higher Kingdom we choose to love all.

  11. I woke up this morning thinking, “We need to love what is, more than we anxiously long for what isn’t.” Nothing wrong with looking and planning ahead, but it should never be at the expense of all we have and have been given. My focus fluctuates all too quickly between yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Thankfully, I am oft reminded by good friends and the Lord that today is beautiful and holy and it deserves to be savored.

    Yesterday I heard a great reminder by the prophet Ray Stevens, ” Everything is beautiful in it’s own way. Like a starry summer night, or a snow covered winter’s day.”

    1. Also Ed, thank you for taking time to pen such wonderful, thoughtful, and provocative musings. I am so grateful for your friendship and the friendship of others who help me stay connected to the truth.

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