A Sunday Kind of Love

When my parents met, Mom melted into the full embrace of Jack Chinn’s courteous, gentle, and protective presence. Those qualities were not empty or misleading enticements. They revealed a true and complete man, one raised by good parents, not coyotes.

         Dad was a gentle warrior. In 1942, he joined the great American roar at enemies that threatened the world. But his boys never saw anything but care and kindness toward our mother. Dad never allowed Mom to enter a zone of danger, or even mild discomfort. 

         I thought of my parents when I recently heard (for the first time) an old song, “A Sunday Kind of Love.” Recorded by Dinah Washington, Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, and others over the years, the lyrics spoke of needing strong arms to enfold, someone to care, and one who would show the way.

         So, what was a “Sunday kind of love?” 

         It was/is simply love at its best—sparkling clean, unhooked from the sweaty demands of labor, joining the community in worship, and moving in the rhythms of rest. That love cares enough to clean up, wise up, and show up; who knows, your future spouse may be sitting behind you. A Sunday kind of love made people giddy with possibilities.   

         That era was not perfect, but those “church people” knew and produced social stability. Let’s face it; one of society’s major purposes is to confirm men in their proper roles. When that does not happen, they careen into vicious cycles of unemployment, abandonment, drugs, alcohol, and kaleidoscopic violence. Aimless males will tear the place apart; ask any cop, judge, ER doctor, K-12 teacher, or prison guard.

         Look; that Sunday-Kind-of-Love societal pattern worked. And its highest validation came through the people it produced. There’s a reason we call them the “greatest generation.”

Two Roads

So, what happened? Did we forget the marvelous story of what creates a great generation? Or did we just change our minds about how to get there?

         The 20th century and the first two decades of the 21st have provided a clear look at the two roads that pass through western culture. 

         Millions traveled the old road, the one constructed over millennia with classic virtues. But it slowly fell out of favor and funding. And without proper maintenance, it dropped into disrepair. About the same time, new studies from universities, think tanks, and government agencies suggested new and cool materials that would take us… somewhere. Faster.

         So, we built the new road, a superhighway fabricated from that new stuff—bytes, clicks, and dopamine hits. And we created the gadgets to manage it. But it seems we missed some details; we didn’t think through the possibilities and inevitabilities. 

         Wendell Berry once made his commencement audience face stubborn facts: “The civil rights movement has not given us better communities. The women’s movement has not given us better marriages or better households. The environment movement has not changed our parasitic relationship to nature… we are left with theory and the bureaucracy and the meddling that come with theory.”[1]

         Berry did not degrade any of those movements, but he did warn that ideals and programmatic approaches carry consequences. 

         More than that, he disputed a materialist vision of society, one that insists humans can design a better way of life all by themselves. Just as doctors have to face the side effects, so do those who care about society, culture, and history. Berry effectively reminded his young audience they will never build better trees from lumber bought at Home Depot. 

A Whole New Way

I’m not advocating going back to the old Sunday-Kind-of-Love road. We can’t and shouldn’t. That road was never designed to last. It was only a shadow of a whole new way of life which comes from the Designer of it all. And it brings everyone—male, female, young, old, rich, poor, impaired, whole, and from every tribe, tongue, and nation on earth—into safety, rest, and love at its best. 

         That new way is not traditional, nostalgic, romantic, American, or religious. It flows out from a higher domain, a realm led by a generous and magnificent King. That’s why Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Thy Kingdom Come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” 

         But too often the futility of our times leads people to keep begging “the Big Guy upstairs” to bless our mess. And all the while He just invites us to follow Him out of our chaos and craziness, on up to the higher ground of His place, the realm of Love at its best. Everywhere, over everything, for everyone, and forever.

[1] Wendell Berry, Commencement Address (College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine, 1989)

35 thoughts on “A Sunday Kind of Love”

  1. My goodness what a great article and a clear picture of a society completely screwed up with government programs.
    As I have often said, we got where we are one family at a time and that is the only way we will get back to a stable society…………………if we ever do.

    Thank you Ed, for this insight.

  2. As usual you hit a resonating note here. I am so thankful to have grown up with good men around, and that includes my two older brothers, uncles and Dad. We can’t sit around missing the old road. We must embrace what He is calling us into and model it (live it) for those following.

    But this reminds me of some of the ways of the old road that brought us this far and are timeless qualities. “That love cares enough to clean up, wise up, and show up…” That one sentence alone could change for good the life of any young man who catches it.

    Thank you again Ed. I believe it was Max Lucado who said, “you can’t write better than you live.” You have modeled that to me my whole life. You write well and pure.

    1. Thanks, Carl. This is so good, especially: “We can’t sit around missing the old road. We must embrace what He is calling us into and model it (live it) for those following.” I believe every word of that.

      And I love the Lucado (?) line.

  3. What a wonderful way to honor your father and mother. It is sad that we live in a society where children are more inclined to blame their parents than to express their love and gratitude. God’s command to honor your father and mother so that it might go well with you, was not wasted on you. Just as with a great grape harvest, it is obvious to all that you came from good stock.

    You and I had front row seats to witness the acts and actions of the greatest generation. I recall as a young boy sitting on my grandmother’s porch and listening to my father and other men from the neighborhood while they chewed tobacco, spit, and talked. All of them were World War 2 veterans, but they seldom spoke of war. When they did they never talked of battles fought. They talked about the guys they served next to or the officers who led or more often mis-led them. I asked my dad once why they never spoke of actual battles and he simply said, “If you meet a man who wants to glorify the battle, he probably wasn’t there.” I learned a lot about being a man by listening to them. Self-sacrifice was expected and they cared more about others more than they loved themselves.

    1. Gosh, John, I’m right there with you on that porch. I heard those same conversations. And, yes, they more often featured someone else, not the one talking. Thank you.

  4. Your highly stimulating article does help show the way to Sunday … prayer, not just to a depersonalized and distant ‘Big Guy Upstairs’ who enacts our wishes, but prayer to God who is calling each of us to submit to His will and ways. Difficult? Yes and no … but truly wonderful when we see what His transformative grace and mercy accomplishes.

    1. Yes, it does come down to “His transformative grace and mercy.” Thank you for being a big brother to me for so long.

  5. Ed, I so enjoyed this! I love how you queued off this sweet song of wishing. I just listened again to Etta James’s rendition of this classic.

    Three lines from the lyrics so fit my response:

    I want a Sunday kind of love
    A love to last past Saturday night
    I want a love that’s on the square

    The definition of “on the square” is a bit old. It means, “candidly honest or transparent; fair and straightforward. The expression literally means “at right angles” so the house will be built and framed properly.

    The homes and parents you and I both had, enjoyed a love that was “on the square,” and they built homes that reflected proper values. Now, we enjoy children with solid marriages.

    Psalm 45:1 was really a wedding song. In it, the two lovers sing words of affection and admiration for each other. The psalm begins: “My heart is stirred by a noble theme.”

    Thank you for stirring our hearts about this noble theme of a “Sunday kind of love.”

    1. Thank you, Glen. This is excellent. Thank you for mentioning those lyrics, especially “on the square.” And I sure agree with your look back at our parents and forward at our offspring. I so enjoy the journey with you.

  6. Over 72 years of life, I’ve realized a truth taught by my parents examples. “ You know when you are loved because you are treated like you are loved.” Words mean little if not followed by actions. I am loved.

    1. Oh, Phyllis, that line is gold. Such a powerful reflection of relational integrity. Thank you! I don’t understand the “72 years.” I know you’re not talking about you.

  7. This is so wonderful. My heart ached with longing for my parents, the “old road”, and soulful music as I read. I too am grateful for the upbringing the Lord blessed me with, and am seeking HIS higher ground. Your brilliant words always lift me higher into that fresh air.

    1. Thanks, Brenda. I too loved that old road. But, like you, I’m more focused these days on the one that leads to His higher ground.

  8. Thank you for this excellent piece, Ed. This line stood out relative to our work on “moral vertigo:”

    “Millions traveled the old road, the one constructed over millennia with classic virtues. But it slowly fell out of favor and funding. And without proper maintenance, it dropped into disrepair.”

    The metaphor of our crumbling highways, roads, and bridges representing our crumbling foundation exposing the rusted rebar of virtues is poignant, to say the least. Removing God from the public and, for the most part, private squares has rendered our society susceptible to endless folly, to be sure, but most notable is the absence of love for one another. We easily say it, but your father and many of his generation of men also showed it through willingly subordinating their own comfort and desires for the good of the family. Self-sacrifice is the passion of great men. Jack Chinn is among them.

    Thanks again, Ed, for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Steve. You have brought great energy and encouragement to so much I have known for so long. Your words here reflect that.

      Yes, Jack Chinn was one of those great men. So was Dr. Earl Carter.

      And your book is like a great sailing vessel, taking us to new lands. Now, I must get back to work on it!

  9. I saw this posted on Facebook by my friend Tim Wood. It expresses what my heart believes much better than I could possibly express it myself. Thanks Ed. It’s good To hear your voice after all these years gone by.

    1. Well, Richard Armour! Been a very long time. Thanks for reading that piece…and writing. May God bless you and your whole family. Hope to see you again one of these days.

    1. Thanks, Brian. We saw so much and often together. I’m forever grateful for every mile and moment of that journey. And I look forward to the coming part of the road.

  10. Oh my. Yes, Ed, and amen! This is what I thought after reading your words:
    Once again, you have untangled the confused mass of reasoning with a simple truth: “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God,” (Micah 6:8 amp)

    Thank you Ed, for helping me breath slow and deep once again…

  11. COVID has not slowed us down. It just made what we do more complicated. The severe weather in Texas has stopped movement; but cattle, pets, plants, pipes and family/ church need more attention. The decision to read your article on “a Sunday kind of love” has slowed me down enough to refocus on the love of my wonderful wife who has put up with me for over 58 years. So rather than write more I am going to spend time with her before chores out in the snow and ice start calling . Thank you Ed for helping me leave my work for my wife. I pray that you and Joanne have a blessed day. Bob

    1. Always good to hear the sonar pings from Bastrop. What you wrote makes writing that essay worthwhile. Thank you. Blessings upon you, Sue, your growing vine, and all those who ride with you.

  12. You are certainly blessed by the experience of your parents embrace exhibiting a love that was directed outward for your benefit. For me this was not my experience. However, God in his great love has blessed me over the years with friends that have been to me what your parents have been to you. And, you are counted amongst these friends. I am mindful of Psalms 68:6,9 as follows:

    “God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun scorched land. You gave abundant showers O God; you refreshed your weary inheritance.”

    Your words here Ed gracefully informs us that we can exchange our weariness from the lifeless scorched places for the verdant refreshment from our Lord’s abundant showers.

    1. I appreciate Psalms 68 as you use it here. Part of God’s abundant care comes through those He provides to show us that kind of love. Thanks.

  13. Your parents would love the boutonniere you have pinned on your father and the corsage you have presented your mother, their vows and their story made alive! And with their story, you have led us to the One Enduring Love. How well you’ve said it!

    And how well you’ve done it!

    1. Wow; sweet! Love the imagery of the boutonniere and corsage. And you and I do know that One Enduring Love. Thank you, Craig.

  14. The section on two roads brought to my mind the book by Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions, which when written in 92 seemed too abstract to most people to accept. Recently republished, the author looks almost divinely prophetic. He isn’t taking sides; he’s defining the two major philosophies driving the opposite poles of thought in America today. And these two, because they are actually different ways of thinking and different convictions of what “truth” is, are irreconcilable. There can never be harmony between those who view mankind and the world so differently.

    1. Thanks, Jack. I bought that book, the new edition, recently. But I’ve not opened it yet. At your encouragement here, I will!

  15. Ed, I came to this article a bit late but still wanted to say how much it impacted me. Our world has never been flawless and has never been righteous, but it was once much more stable than it is today.
    The departures from HIS way have been intentionally led by those seeking to be gods unto themselves, and has been succumbed to by way too many believers not realizing what was happening.
    One family at a time… you are right. Only when men are men and lead their families into Godliness can we ever be blessed. And I so agree that praying that God “bless this mess” is just wishful thinking.

    I too was blessed by a Godly example from parents. (though I wasn’t always wise enough to appreciate it through the 60s)

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