“I can’t help it. I just love them too much.”
It was the confession of a grandmother. Her daughter lives nearby with her husband and two small children. She was admitting she was an over-grandma. Over-caring, over-providing, over-serving…
Too much love?
Her tearful angst came at the end of our study of idolatry and traveled around our circle of women.
And when it came around to me, I felt the tension. I’m guilty of gusto, too.
Over-lovers, over-workers, and over-players make us uneasy don’t they? We get nervous when they get their hopes up or sacrifice too much. We preach moderation, balance, and boundaries.
But just when, exactly, does the proper love of God mean holding back?
When do I tell my daughter to love her friends less? Or my son to love the theater less? Where do I draw the line in loving my husband?
How can the Gospel of Christ ever be about less?
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
Speaking of gusto…
The Gift of the Magi is a touching Christmas story of a poor couple who found a way to give each other Christmas gifts even in their harsh poverty. Della secretly sold her beautiful hair to get money for Jim’s gold watch chain, while Jim sold his treasured watch to buy Della some jeweled hair combs.
On Christmas morning, they realized their gifts were useless, but worth more than any money could buy.
Della and Jim were over-lovers, and their story revives something in our souls. Here’s an excerpt:
If a queen had lived in the rooms near theirs, Della would have washed and dried her hair where the queen could see it. Della knew her hair was more beautiful than any queen’s jewels and gifts.
If a king had lived in the same house, with all his riches, Jim would have looked at his watch every time they met. Jim knew that no king had anything so valuable.
Do you see? We would never know how much they loved each other if we didn’t also know how much they loved what they gave up. We would never know how big their sacrifices.
The Gift of the Magi isn’t about hair or watches, or about generosity in poverty. It’s more than wise men with myrrh.
It’s the story of our Lover and His Christmas Gift.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” 1 John 3:16
The image of Jesus in the manger isn’t shocking because babies shouldn’t be in mangers. It’s shocking because of what Jesus gave up to be there.
Love is brave and desperate.
It’s laying an only son on an altar and risking reputations.
It’s a broken bottle of perfume and the last copper coins.
It’s the willingness to break your heart, hopes, and dreams for something bigger.
This is my body. Broken for you.
The sin isn’t in being crazy about grandchildren. Or in being head-over-heels for your spouse. Or in pouring yourself into your work.
It’s never about loving less. It’s always about ordering right.
We are commanded to love the Creator more than the creation. But loving the creation isn’t wrong. It’s human. It’s holy.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10: 27
Love on top of more love.
Honestly, some days, it’s just too much. Too much love for one hardened heart.
On those days, Emmanuel brings Grace. To re-order my loves. To open my hands. To roll away the stone.
And with a softer, stretched-out heart, I can love so much more. Grace.
It’s the Constant Exchange, over and over. Stone for flesh.
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26
Our greatest defense against idolatry isn’t restraint.
It’s loving so big and wild that people notice – and then, when we have their attention, loving God all the more.
It’s, God forbid, on the poorest of Christmases, when there’s no room in the inn, no money in the bank, or no other way, we’re ready for the cutting off and the letting go.
It’s Gethsemane with blood, sweat, and tears. To right the order. To be ready.
We’re ready because we practice, over and over, in the presence of Emmanuel. We’re ready because it is well with our souls. We’re ready because Wisdom Himself has gone before us.
The closing words of The Gift of the Magi say it all:
(of Della and Jim) Of all who give gifts, these two were the most wise. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are the most wise. Everywhere they are the wise ones. They are the magi.
I tell my daughter to be generous in friendship and trust God to supply her truest needs. I tell my son to go ahead and build his hopes for his next role, for he knows the God of joy and comfort.
I tell the teary grandmother, “Don’t hold back. Love those babies with everything you’ve got. And every day, when your heart is bursting, turn to Emmanuel for more.”
I tell myself.
How about you? Is fear restraining your heart? Don’t love less. Order right. His grace is always enough.
Love with gusto, friend. Don’t be afraid to treasure your gifts so much that if you must give them away, the whole world will see Christmas.
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19