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I’m sitting at Lemonjello’s, a local coffee shop with free wi-fi and a hip feel.  I am always afraid I won’t fit in here, but I look around and see that they’ve done a good job of making everyone feel at home.  Next to me is a mom and her two little girls (hot chocolate and cinnamon roll).  In front of me is a guy in a rough leather jacket and short hair.  He’s reading philosophy.  A grandfather type guy is a bit away.  He looks like he’s reading some history book about WW2.  Across from him…looks like a mentoring relationship going.  Then there’s a couch with a coffee table.  At the couch a young couple.  No doubt Hope College Students.

He looks like my brother, Patrick, and she looks like my sister-in-law, Katharine.  But they’re different.  My brother’s been married for a number of years and when you are around them they’re affectionate, but not like this.  These two are cuddly and overly dramatic.  This girl, 20 maybe, owns this guy.  He just doesn’t know it.  He’s wrapped around her finger.  She gives a fake pout and he crumbles with dramatic flair.  They hold hands and giggle.  She runs her hands through his hair and his chest puffs out a bit; he’s a bit scrawny, so it looks a little funny, but it must work for him because her other hand goes to his chest.  They get up to leave and he goes out of his way to carry her trash.  As he’s away you can see her smile at the two little girls.  It’s the smile that’s in between “I wish I could babysit them” and “I could see myself with these little girls given by my chest-puffing, trash-carrying boyfriend.”  He comes back and they cuddle closer while the girls dance nearby.  It’s picturesque.

I’m sure near Seattle, my brother’s life is different.  He has a great marriage, but he carries trash full of diapers and broken lamps.  His life is not lived in a coffeeshop with children dancing.  He’s got a job, and sometimes it means he has to travel for a few days away from his family.  He’s got responsibilities, and while he and Katharine love their kids, I’m guessing she doesn’t sit at a coffeeshop and see other children and daydream about babysitting them.  When they’re together they hold hands and sit close on the couch, but the chest-puffing is done and while she may run her fingers through his hair…chances are that it’s to tame it on his way out the door.

At some point the bubble pops.  And that’s OK.  It doesn’t mean the love is lost, just replaced by a deeper commitment to grace and forgiveness.  You see the pin that popped the bubble is probably a mixture of bad breath and bad hair, extra pounds and less spending money.  It’s seeing your partner in a position where they don’t puff their chest or giggle at a joke.  It’s watching your partner make a baaaaad mistake and then, after a looooong discussion running your fingers through their hair or placing your hand on their knee with a look that says, “I love you still.”  It’s seeing the dirtiest, ugliest, most secret and disgusting part of their soul and pointing to it and saying, “I love you there, too.”

And that’s what God is willing to do for us.  The bubble never existed for God.  Once the goldilocks bubble we look through to see God pops and we can honestly say, “I don’t know if I like this or that about God” then God is able to say, “OK, I understand that.  Guess what?  I love you in that dirty, ugly, most secret and disgusting part of your forgiven soul.”  And our relationship with God starts to get really good.  Really real.

Like Patrick and Katharine, but into the even deeper places where the sweetness of the water is soul-nourishing.

Categories: The Slow Grow Tags: , , ,
  1. Dave
    January 6, 2011 at 9:58 am

    Love this post, Jim.

    You’re final sentence is a dab of vanilla ice cream in steaming cup of hot chocolate…

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