Confession: I have been known to FaceTime my dog when I’m away from home. That’s right. I’ve asked someone at my house to go get my dog and put her on video so I could croon baby-talk to her. And why not? Look at that face. She’s adorable. She clearly misses me when I’m gone. And she growly-barks “I love you” on command. OK, it’s really more like “Rye Ruv Roo,” and according to SOME people with no imagination, it just sounds like “Bark-Bark-Bark,” but still that’s pretty good, right? Nobody else I know is that consistent with the undying love and appreciation. Also, also when she’s stolen a bunch of my socks and chewed the toe-seams out, she grovels at my feet convincingly. All evidence of true devotion, right?
The funny thing is, though, yesterday, I tried to get her to say, “Rye Ruv Roo,” and she just blinked at me and stretched. Like some kind of CAT. Probably because I didn’t have a treat, and we hadn’t practiced it in awhile. I hate to say it, but I felt a little sad. How weird is that? It’s my dog! Which got me thinking about two things:
1) How much we do care whether or not we see/hear/feel the “Rye Ruv Roos” from others.
2) How we sometimes give out “Rye Ruv Roos” indiscriminately in hopes of earning a “treat” of acceptance from others—but never risk having meaningful connections.
We were made for relationships. Right from the beginning of time. Adam had an awesome life in Eden including personal, unhindered friendship with God. But God said that it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone (see Genesis 2:18). I find it funny that even though God already knew He was going to make another human—a better-than-the-best-eHarmony-match that was going to rock Adam’s world—He first made and brought to Adam a sample of “every living animal of the field and every bird of the air” (Gen 2:19) to see what Adam would name them. I’m assuming this means name them as in “Cow” or “Parrot” or “Dog,” but what if Adam was also naming them “Bessie” and “Polly” and “Buddy” and hoping one of them might moo, squawk, or bark a “Rye Ruv Roo”? Not for a treat. Not to appease a master. But from the heart because of a no-strings-attached relationship between equals. An unconditional “Rye Ruv Roo.” Adam didn’t find that. And that’s when God created Eve, and true love between the first two humans bloomed for the first time.
So back to our lives far, far away from Eden. We desperately need relationships—not just romantic ones but friendship and family ties, too. And no, that doesn’t mean we give up snuggles with our pets and all that is good there—my Bali has been a solace and comfort to me many times! But we need real people who can look into our eyes and tell us that we matter, that we’re worthy of love. We also need to become the kind of people who pour love into the lives of others. Just like Adam, then, we’ve got to see what’s NOT meeting that need.
Is it trying to impress a circle of friends or co-workers that don’t really know the real us?
Is it putting our thoughts out there on social media and then checking obsessively for likes or retweets?
Is it holding people at arm’s length so they can’t see us, warts and all, and reject us—but can’t benefit from our love either?
We’ve also got to take some courageous steps toward the Father and ask Him to meet our need to receive and give love. That means not only receiving His love that reaches out to save us (see Romans 5:8), but also asking Him to lead us to find meaningful community where love can be freely expressed. Maybe it’s a fellowship group at church. Maybe it’s a charity where we can serve and get to know others that share our passions. Maybe it’s freeing up time to have coffee and real conversations with neighbors we’ve waved to a hundred times. Because that kind connection—that kind of “Rye Ruv Roo” —is what this life is supposed to be all about.
I give you a new commandment—to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35