The Gift of Love

Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 1 Timothy 4:14

Sunday, May 22, 2011, I was officially ordained as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ at Christian Life Church. My family, friends, and the community of faith from the Center for Christian Life Enrichment surrounded me with their love and support. It was an experience I had dreamed of and will forever treasure as one of the high points of my life. My daughter, Lauren, said it was as if I was at my own funeral listening to people acknowledge me and what I meant to them.

 

I began my message with a story about my big brother, Charlie, who is 14 years older than me. Growing up, Charlie was like a dad to me. I looked up to him and treasured the times we spent together. He consistently made an effort to include me in his life, teaching me to play football, hike, shoot, and fish. He was a powerful athlete and loved football like I did. As a result of his unending conflict with my father, he enlisted in the Navy when he was 19. Watching him leave was the saddest day of my childhood. At the time, I felt abandoned by him and did not understand why he couldn’t take me with him.

 

I recalled a time when he returned home and I was wildly excited to see him. I’m sure I was like an ADHD kid on steroids. We were playing around on the driveway and I started wrestling with him. I grabbed him, spun him around, and tossed him on the ground. I am sure I jumped on him as well for good measure. Suddenly, I saw Charlie holding his ribs and moaning. Somehow in the process, he had gotten hurt. I was stunned. How could Superman be injured? I felt like Lambert the Lion unsure of where my strength had come from!

Instantly, I went from feeling excited to feeling terribly scared. Fear that once again I was “too much” and shame that I had hurt my brother who I loved were threatening to overwhelm me. A trip to the doctor confirmed my brother’s diagnosis—broken ribs. I was mortified. This scene illustrates my conflicted sense of self—on the one hand, a rough and tough boy from birth and on the other hand a deeply sensitive guy who was extremely concerned about the feelings of others.

I recently returned from a visit with my 94 year old mother. She gave me a mid-year report she had found from Wirtabel Harris, my nursery school teacher. I was four years old. She wrote, “Richard likes active, outdoor play and is very definitely a leader in his group of friends…because he is so “rough and tough”, it is surprising to see how easily he becomes crushed when he feels rejected or has to wait too long for a special toy.” This tough/tender tension is part of my DNA.

When I was preparing my ordination message, I suddenly realized that this inability to reconcile my conflicted sense of self was part of why I was so drawn to Jesus. I saw in him the same tough and tender dichotomy.  Jesus was a courageously tough truth-teller who was willing to stand up to anyone regardless of position or status. He was also the most compassionate and tender-hearted physician of the soul. I saw myself in Him and believed that He would help me to make sense of myself.

 

It was in Christ that I found the incarnation of everything I was longing for. He became my hero and my savior. Jesus was the embodiment of strength and tenderness. He was my source of safety, security and rest. Jesus was the basis for me mattering—I believed He took the initiative to seek me out and invite me into a personal relationship with Him. It was in Christ that I had the hope of having all my hungers satisfied. It was through my relationship with Jesus that I found meaning and purpose. My call was not only to a relationship with Him—it was to a life of sharing God’s unlimited and unconditional love with the world.

This was such a special day because I was surrounded by those I love who were affirming God’s work and call in my life.

 

2 Responses to “The Gift of Love”
  1. Andrew Mercer 1 June 2011 at 3:47 pm #

    Rich,

    Thanks for sharing such an inspiring message and for living a life of passion and meaning. I like how you constantly go for it in your life!

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Published: 30.05.2011 / 05:55 AM

Category: Grappling with God,Relationships,Spiritual Growth

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