Chaplain's Corner: Loving people "as is"
August 21, 2012
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. - In most stores, you can find good deals on lots of merchandise, but there is a tip off about those articles when you read the tag and see the words, "as is." It's a euphemistic way of saying these are damaged goods. They have a stain, a broken zipper a missing button, or some other flaw and are consequently slightly irregular. The store often does not tell you where the flaw is. You must look for it. If you purchase the item, don't come back later whining and sniveling. There will be no refunds, exchanges or sympathy. You've been given fair warning. Don't expect perfection. If you want it, you must take it "as is."
What if there was a truth in advertising law for people perhaps in dating services or even churches? What if people were required to wear a tag that might say, "Slightly bruised self esteem," or, "Mildly impaired ability," or even, "Wacko, run for your life?" Would anyone even get married?
Consider the person you are closest to. That person is slightly irregular. He or she might as well wear an "as is" tag. Don't expect perfection. Don't be shocked. He or she is a flawed person. And so are you and I.
So, how are we to respond to the flawed people around us? Do we judge them or accept them? Do we beat them or build them? Do we ignore them or extend ourselves to them?
The original language of the Bible's New Testament was Greek. It is interesting to note that the Greeks used three separate terms to define various types of love.
The first and most shallow term for love was the word EROS. We derive our word erotic from it and tend to think of erotic love. But actually, it describes a love that must be earned. One must perform to receive love. In other words, another will love you IF you... please him sexually, buy her an expensive present, or do what he tells you to do. Some of you may have grown up as children with parents who dispensed love based on your grades in school or your achievements on the athletic field. If you stop meeting the conditions, jumping through hoops, or performing, the love ceases to flow. EROS love is the weakest form of love.
PHILEO love goes a little deeper than EROS love. One is loved because of an attitude or loveable quality. You are loved because you are handsome, pretty, outgoing, rich, or you have a great sense of humor. But what happens when you lose that lovable quality? For example, if you are loved for the way you look, what happens if your skin begins to thin? Will you still be love to the same degree?
Or what happens when someone else comes along with more of that lovable quality? Perhaps that is why the child gets jealous of the newborn or the new pretty girl at school provokes jealousy from the other girls. Perhaps this kind of love is exemplified in the follow poem:
John's girl is rich and haughty.
My girl is poor as clay.
John's girl is young and pretty.
Mine looks like a bale of hay.
John's girl is smart and clever.
My girl is dumb but good.
But would I trade John's girl for my girl?
You bet your life I would!
The deepest level of love is expressed through the Greek term AGAPE. One is not loved for his or her performance or even just a lovable quality. The word literally is translated, "I love you regardless of your faults. I love you in spite of your deficiencies. I love you unconditionally." Every time the Bible talks about God's love for us or love between husband and wife, it uses the term AGAPE.
AGAPE love is best demonstrated in a true story coming out of Brooklyn, N.Y. A school for children with learning disabilities was holding a fundraising banquet. During the program, a father stood to speak. He first extolled the school and staff for their outstanding work. Then he posed a question.
"Where is the perfection in my son? Everything God does is done with perfection, but my son can't understand as others. He cannot remember facts and figures. Where is God's perfection?"
The audience was shocked by his question and pained by his agony. Then the father provided an answer for the question he had asked.
"I believe when God brings a child like this into the world, the perfection he seeks is in the way other people react to this child."
He went on to tell a story about he and his son, Shiah, taking a walk through the park. Shiah noticed a group of boys he knew playing baseball.
"Do you think they would let me play, Dad?" Shiah asked. The father knew Shiah was neither athletic nor coordinated enough to play baseball. However, he approached one of the boys to ask if his son could play.
"We're down by six runs and it's the eighth inning. I guess he could be on our team. Maybe we can even get him up to bat in the ninth inning."
The father was ecstatic and Shiah smiled broadly as he put on a glove and ran out to short center field.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shiah's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the bottom of the ninth, Shiah's team scored again and now with two outs and the bases loaded with the potential winning run on base, Shiah was scheduled to bat.
Surprisingly, Shiah was given a bat, even though everyone knew he didn't even know how to hold a bat properly, let alone swing it. As Shiah stepped up to the plate, the pitcher moved a few steps closer to lob the ball in softly so Shiah could at least make contact.
As the first pitch came in, Shiah swung clumsily and missed. One of Shiah's teammates then approached Shiah and together they held the bat waiting for the next pitch. The pitcher moved in closer to softly toss the ball toward Shiah. Together with his teammate, Shiah made contact with the ball and it rolled slowly toward the pitcher, who picked up the ball and could have easily thrown it to the first baseman. Shiah would have been out and the game would have ended. Instead, the pitcher threw the ball on a high arc over the first baseman's head and into right field.
Everyone started yelling, "Shiah, run to first, run to first!"
Never in his life had Shiah run to first base. He scampered down the first base line wide eyed and startled. As Shiah stepped on first, they pointed him to second base. The right fielder could have easily thrown the ball to second and Shiah would have been tagged out. Instead, inexplicably, he threw high and over both the second and third basemen's heads and into short left field.
Everyone yelled, "Run to third base, Shiah! Run to third!"
The opposing team's shortstop then ran to him and turned him in the direction of third base. As Shiah stepped on third base, boys from both teams ran behind him screaming, "Shiah, run to home plate! Run home!"
As Shiah stepped on home plate, all 18 boys from both teams lifted him on their shoulders and made him a hero because he had just hit a grand slam home run to win the game.
"That day," said Shiah's father softly with tears now rolling down his face, "for one moment, those 18 boys reached the level of God's perfection."
We live in an imperfect world of needy, grasping, broken, flawed people, every one of them with a little tag on them saying "as is." When you encounter them, remember the story of Shiah. Remember the better way. And for just a moment, you too can reach the level of God's perfection.