There once was a house in which lived a family. Peeking into the window of this house, you would see a perfect little scene: There was no spilled juice on the floor. The refrigerator was always stocked with the perfect blend of nutritious foods and treats. The cars in the garage were paid for and well-maintained. And the people who lived there? The children didn’t scream at each other or their parents. They were respectful and well-mannered and knew exactly what was expected of them.
It was perfect. It was awful.
When those tidy little children grew up and moved out, they never came back. It wasn’t that they didn’t love their parents. It wasn’t that they were unhappy people. It was all about that other resident of the house, the one who’d lived there next to them all those years…quietly, silently sliding its way around their home, perching on the roof, always watching. It was a sibling, a parent, a patriarch. It was all of those things, and they never called it by its name: Expectation.
You see, in this perfect house, you were expected to fit into the molds from which you were formed: College-Educated, Middle Class, Church-Attending, Heterosexual. If the mold got stretched or cracked or otherwise bent, you were met with the wrath of Expectation: An anger which sometimes burned so cold that the mold squeezed you tighter, and sometimes bubbled so hot that the frames holding you in scalded you.
But just across the street, there was another house. Looking from the outside in, you’d never choose this house over the first. The yard wasn’t quite as tidy. The voices were sometimes raised. There were mistakes made and terrible word bombs that siblings passed around like a dangerous toy.
It was not perfect. It was, however, full of Love.
On Love’s side of the street, Expectation did not dare to travel. There was no room in Love’s house for silent intruders. Expectation’s molds did not work here because Love’s fire shattered their restraints into a million pieces. On Love’s side of the street, there were hurts, but those were followed by apology. There were erroneous maps studied for family road trips, maps which showed the One Way all good Christian families had to travel. Until the day the family decided that those maps made good kindling for Love’s fire.
In recent times, we have been handed lists of what a Christian should look like, who a Christian should love, and those lists have been met with counter-lists and counter-counter-lists. This is nothing new; these lists have been handed down again and again for centuries. But when people’s homes are crashing down around them; and children are slicing open their wrists because they don’t match up with any of those lists; and teenagers are afraid to talk to their parents, the very people who should hold their children’s hearts most tenderly and prayerfully? Lists don’t hold up. Lists are of no use when people are bleeding out on battlefields all around us.
As for me, I choose to put down the lists and live on Love’s side of the street. If, in the end, I am wrong, then I erred on the side of Love. After all, there once was a carpenter, a crafter of the wood that went into these very houses who spoke often of such Love. And then he proved it. That’s the kind of house I want to live and die in.
“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”