It’s been a week since my daughter left for Washington. She texted pictures of the landscape once or twice, and says she is having a great time. Because she is so young, she doesn’t understand that you nearly always have a great time whenever you visit somewhere else — anywhere outside of your normal routine — especially when you are on vacation. Listen to a heroin addict describe his first experience of getting high and he will tell you just how wonderful it made him feel. But it leads nowhere good. And given enough time in any place, the “honeymoon period” wears off and it becomes just another place, because problems exist everywhere and you’re the same person whether you are here or 3,000 miles away.
I had a conversation with Sikki the other day where I wondered aloud how I’m supposed to love our daughter when she comes back, and because we speak English and have only one word for “love” of course I had to explain myself. Love to me means doing and saying whatever is truly in the best interest of another’s welfare, and of course “welfare” to me means more than just physical welfare. Sometimes real love might not appear very loving. Jesus loved the Pharisees when He told them the truth from God even though He knew it would make them very angry. Paul loved the Galatians when he called them stupid, and when he instructed the Corinthians to expel the man in their midst who was engaged in persistent sexual sin.
So here I am wondering: My daughter defied her parents’ wishes, in fact has nearly always dishonored us and preferred her peers, and is now texting pictures. Am I supposed to reply, “Glad you’re having a good time?” If she returns more emboldened in her sin and still expects to live under our shelter as she quarrels and disregards us, should I allow that? I’m not even sure I can. Life is perplexing sometimes.
There is so much that I don’t know. I was listening to an audio sermon by the Christian philosopher Dallas Willard this week while I was driving somewhere. I almost clicked away from it because the audio quality wasn’t great, but I’m glad I stuck with it because he was talking about something that has always mystified me. He mentioned that “the great omission in the Great Commission” is that we make plans to get people saved and baptized, but the church by-and-large is really terrible at actually training people — at making disciples. The church is fractured, for one thing. There’s no sense of cohesion or unity in any of it, really. People tell you they love you but they get mad and leave, and they never tell the truth and say they’re leaving because they’re mad. Most of the time they don’t say anything at all; they just disappear. But if they do tell you why they’re going it’s always because they’re so holy and spiritual and can’t walk with the rest of you duds because you clearly don’t know Jesus as well as they do, or you don’t obey Him enough, or you didn’t appreciate their gift enough, or whatever the speck. So there’s barely anything that approaches real relationship or honesty in Christian life, let alone the kind of training or discipleship that Jesus modeled. So a guy like me just flounders through life feeling like a failure and a perpetual orphan and having no heroes, wondering how to live, and looking to the Lord for guidance to do so, but still feeling alone.
Is there a place anywhere on this earth where a body of believers in Jesus Christ are actually doing the things He told them to do, together? There must be. There must be answers to these questions and longings.