“God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.”
For years the words from 1 John were the crescendo of my well-crafted wedding homily, where I proclaimed to a couple that because they were in love, God was with them, and if God was with them anything was possible. And then I would smile, and the couple would smile, and the congregation would smile…and the whole room would just radiate with warmth. It was truly lovely.
After nearly twenty years of marriage (and ministry) I am now embarrassed by these words. Looking back I should have taken that moment when I “had the room” to warn everyone present that the love abiding in them is so dangerous it ought to come with a warning label!
The Apostle Paul may have argued that love is patient and kind, but what he forgot to mention was that love is also disruptive and dislocating. Once you start loving someone or something or some place (think church), you give it power, and love never uses this power to stabilize or secure the status quo. Love is more like a backhoe than a blanket, choosing to turn over the ground beneath our feet, instead of making it more pleasant to lie on. Love may not be envious or rude, but it is certainly stubborn and annoying.
I was recently reminded of love’s disruptive power after I made the choice to leave a place I loved, for love. Despite it being the absolute worst time (apologies to the recently hired staff at my old church; you are the best!) my wife believed God was calling her to something new – and seven hours away – and so, after much hemming and hawing, I did for my wife what I would want her to do for me (I remember reading that somewhere). I chose to act out of love, well, at least in part. Let’s be real. Somewhere in my subconscious I believed God would reward me for my act of love, because after all, with God all things are possible. I was so stupid. In my haste I forgot to read the warning label. Instead of securing God’s favor, my act of love started a self-made midlife crisis!
Fresh of the realization of just how disruptive love can be, my instinct is to warn all of you to dole out your love cautiously and carefully. Measure what you give, because it comes with a cost. That is my first instinct, but thankfully it is not my last, because as painful as they have been all of the disruptions love has brought my way are exactly what I need to grow in my capacity to love.
Love is the disruption that expands our capacity to love, which of course leads to more disruptions, which leads to more love, which leads to more disruptions. You see what God is doing, don’t you? Lovely, isn’t it.
A graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary in 2000, Derek has served churches in Denver, Akron, and Cleveland Heights, Ohio. In his ministry he seeks to help congregations better serve their community by refining their vision, streamlining their governance, and focusing their efforts. Having recently moved to Richmond, after his wife, the Rev. Amy Starr Redwine, accepted the call as the Senior Pastor at First Presbyterian, in Richmond, Virginia. Derek is currently enjoying the full-time job managing the schedules of his three children and exploring how he can use his gifts to bring about lasting transformation to Richmond. Derek is a passionate advocate of Waldorf eduction and loves to read, run, and watch movies.